Teaching Notes

Example Output

Example Output
Close-up view of a map produced with AEJEE showing earthquake locations and dates.
The sample map on the right shows the years and locations of earthquakes with a magnitude of 7.0 or greater. Earthquakes in red have taken place in the last 100 years.

Grade Level

This chapter is most appropriate for students in grades 8-12.

Learning Goals

After completing this chapter, students will be able to:

Background Information

Currently, it is not possible to accurately predict earthquakes in a timely fashion. It is a goal of this chapter that students discover this, as well as understand that earthquake risk varies across Earth. Because earthquake activity is associated with plate boundaries, some places on Earth have a greater likelihood of experiencing earthquakes than do other locales. Four major concepts of this chapter are:

  1. The risk of earthquakes striking any location varies on Earth. Proximity to plate boundaries is a major factor in determining risk.
  2. The largest earthquakes happen at convergent plate boundaries.
  3. Earth scientists study historical earthquake distributions and frequencies to come up with long-range forecasts that indicate the likelihood of earthquakes striking certain regions.
  4. Although accurate prediction of earthquakes is not yet possible, research continues in this area.

Scientists at the USGS describe earthquakes by their magnitude. By analyzing a year's worth of earthquake data, students come to realize that there are many more of the very small earthquakes than there are of the really big ones.


For more information and statistics about earthquakes, visit these pages at the USGS:
Earthquake Facts and Statistics
2006 Earthquake Statistics
Information on Significant Worldwide Earthquakes by Year

Instructional Strategies

Examples of datasets that can be investigated with the techniques of this chapter include: earthquake activity, stream flow conditions, global land and sea surface temperatures, and many other datasets with latitude and longitude coordinates, such as those gathered with a GPS.

Note: It is not necessary for students to download the earthquake data themselves in order to carry out analyses about earthquake prediction. Some other options include the following:

Learning Contexts

Many datasets of interest to Earth scientists are posted on the Internet in tabular format with varying delimiters used to separate the fields. If a dataset contains latitude and longitude fields, then it can be mapped and analyzed with a GIS. Prior to bringing the data into a GIS, it may need to be prepared in a "GIS-ready" format. Depending upon the GIS software that is used, this can mean creating a Comma Separated Values (.csv) file from the original dataset. This chapter describes the technique of preparing "GIS-ready" data as well as shows how to map and conduct basic analyses using a GIS.

Science Standards

The following National Science Education Standards are supported by this chapter:

Grades 5-8

Grades 9-12

Geography Standards

The following U.S. National Geography Standards are supported by this chapter:

Time Required

Three to Four 45-minute sessions.

Assessment Strategy

This chapter culminates with students producing a report and/or preparing a presentation explaining their Top Ten list and the place on Earth that they predict the next big earthquake will strike. Consider evaluating their products using a rubric with separate scales for 1) accuracy of science content, 2) appropriateness of supporting maps and frequency analyses, 3) clarity of ideas, and 4) persuasiveness of the location of the Next Big One.

Other Resources

Teaching Resources

The following are two files of earthquake data that can serve as a back-up to the instructions in Part 1.
2010-2011 Earthquakes with a Magnitude between 5.0 and 10.0 in CSV (Comma Separated Values 119kB Aug6 11)
Significant Plus Big Earthquakes in CSV (Comma Separated Values 50kB Aug6 11)

Additional links, listed below, may enhance the teaching of this chapter:

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