Mercalli Earthquake Activity

Kaatje Kraft
Mesa Community College
Author Profile

  1. This activity was selected for the On the Cutting Edge Reviewed Teaching Collection

    This activity has received positive reviews in a peer review process involving five review categories. The five categories included in the process are

    • Scientific Accuracy
    • Alignment of Learning Goals, Activities, and Assessments
    • Pedagogic Effectiveness
    • Robustness (usability and dependability of all components)
    • Completeness of the ActivitySheet web page

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  2. This activity has benefited from input from faculty educators beyond the author through a review and suggestion process. This review took place as a part of a faculty professional development workshop where groups of faculty reviewed each others' activities and offered feedback and ideas for improvements. To learn more about the process On the Cutting Edge uses for activity review, see

This page first made public: May 16, 2008


A jigsaw process that allows students to analyze first person descriptions of earthquakes and assess several earthquake features.

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Introduction to geologic disasters class (but could also be used in an introductory physical geology class)

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

None outside of reading and writing (builds on students' prior understandings formulated outside of classroom).

How the activity is situated in the course

This is my introduction to the earthquake "unit" which leads into a case study analysis.


Content/concepts goals for this activity

Students should be able to:
- Describe what the Mercalli scale measures, its strengths and weaknesses and determine that it varies from the Richter scale.
- Describe some of the events that occur during an earthquake

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

Comparing observations and analyzing them for a quantitative value.

Other skills goals for this activity

Collaborative skills, reading skills

Description of the activity/assignment

This activity is an inquiry approach to term and concept introduction. Students will work in a jigsaw format to read through the descriptions of eyewitness accounts from earthquakes and assess a Mercalli value. In the jigsaw groups, they will compare the different Mercalli and Richter values and describe the basic events that occurred during different earthquakes. They will share this information in order to collaboratively assess the strengths and weaknesses of this scale relative to the Richter magnitudes provided. They will also begin to determine what types of hazards result from earthquakes.

Determining whether students have met the goals

Questions provided must be accurately answered.
Quiz assessment follows after brief lecture follow-up.

More information about assessment tools and techniques.

Download teaching materials and tips

Other Materials

Supporting references/URLs

USGS home page
A handout of the modified Mercalli intensity scale, such as this one from the USGS

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