Earthquake Investigation Workshop: Shake, Rattle, & Rock

Daniel Murray

University of Rhode Island
University with graduate programs, including doctoral programs


This 2.5 day workshop investigates provides MS & HS teachers with information about plate tectonics and earthquakes. It is geared to standards and Grade Span Expectations in Rhode Island. Over the next five years, most Rhode Island science teachers will have taken this, or similar, workshops and implemented them in their classes.

Course URL:
Course Size:


Course Context:

The Rhode Island Technology Enhanced Science project (RITES) is a five-year project funded by the National Science Foundation to improve the quality of science teaching and learning in Rhode Island with the goal of increasing the number and diversity of students who are proficient in science and pursue STEM careers. To engage both teachers and students as co-learners in scientific inquiry, RITES is developing a large set of exciting computer-based "Investigations" which are directly tied to the Rhode Island Grade Span Expectations (GSEs) for middle and high school science. This Earthquake Investigation Workshop is one of those "investigations." For all workshops and other professional development activities, the intent is to strengthen teacher's understanding of the science, their ability to use technology in the classroom, and their ability to teach in a more inquiry-based mode.

Course Goals:

The following goals pertain to the MS & HS students, who are taught by the teachers who participate in the workshop.
  • Students should be able to recognize major faults, as seen in images.
  • Students should be able to analyze the earthquake history of faults other than the San Andreas.
  • Students should be able to analyze and assess geologic hazards other than earthquakes.
  • Students should be able to design new experiments for the earthquake machine.
  • Students should be able to explain how convection circulations within the mantle initiate the movement of structural plates, which can in turn cause plate movement and seismic activity.

How course activities and course structure help students achieve these goals:

The workshop provides ample opportunity for teachers to increase their understanding of faults and earthquakes from a variety of perspectives. These include: 1) the analysis data (e.g., GPS, LIDAR, etc.), 2) the construction of models of geologic processes, and their use in generating new data for analysis, 3) the application of insights gained through 1 & 2 to the the identification and interpretation of fault in the field.

Assessment of students is done by 1) in-class observation (by an external evaluator), 2) performance on mandated standardized tests, 3) grades and graduation rates, 4) changes in the number of HS students who choose to go into STEM-related majors or careers subsequent to high school.

Skills Goals



Earthquake Investigation workshop syllabus (Microsoft Word 56kB Mar7 10)