GETSI Teaching Materials >GPS, Strain, and Earthquakes > Unit 1: Earthquake!
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This module is part of a growing collection of classroom-tested materials developed by GETSI. The materials engage students in understanding the earth system as it intertwines with key societal issues. The collection is freely available and ready to be adapted by undergraduate educators across a range of courses including: general education or majors courses in Earth-focused disciplines such as geoscience or environmental science, social science, engineering, and other sciences, as well as courses for interdisciplinary programs.
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Unit 1: Earthquake!

Vince Cronin, Baylor University (Vince_Cronin@baylor.edu)
Phil Resor, Wesleyan University (presor@wesleyan.edu)
  1. This material was developed and reviewed through the GETSI curricular materials development process. This rigorous, structured process includes:

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    • multiple reviews to ensure the materials meet the GETSI materials rubric which codifies best practices in curricular development, student assessment and pedagogic techniques.
    • created or reviewed by content experts for accuracy of the science content.

  2. This activity was selected for the On the Cutting Edge Exemplary Teaching Collection

    Resources in this top level collection a) must have scored Exemplary or Very Good in all five review categories, and must also rate as “Exemplary” in at least three of the five categories. The five categories included in the peer review process are

    • Scientific Accuracy
    • Alignment of Learning Goals, Activities, and Assessments
    • Pedagogic Effectiveness
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    For more information about the peer review process itself, please see http://serc.carleton.edu/NAGTWorkshops/review.html.



This page first made public: Dec 9, 2016

Summary

In this opening unit, students develop the societal context for understanding earthquake hazards using as a case study the 2011 Tohoku, Japan, earthquake. It starts with a short homework "scavenger hunt" in which students find a compelling video and information about the earthquake. In class, they share some of what they have found and then engage in a series of think-pair-share exercises to investigate both the societal and scientific data about the earthquake.

Learning Goals

Unit 1 Learning Outcomes

Unit 1 Teaching Objectives

  • Affective: Provide students with the opportunity to analyze the human impact from an earthquake.
  • Cognitive: Facilitate students' ability to interpret a range of data images related to earthquakes.

Context for Use

This module was designed for structural geology courses but may also be successfully used in geophysics, tectonics, or geohazards courses, or possibly even a physics or engineering course seeking practical applications. However, Unit 1 could really be used in nearly any nonintroductory course in which students are learning about earthquakes. The module assumes that students have had a basic physical geology introduction to plate tectonics, faults, earthquakes, and earthquake magnitude/intensity scales. Although the rest of the module could be done without Unit 1, this short unit really does provide an important societal context for learning about earthquakes and gives students an opportunity to practice interpreting a variety of earthquake data images.

Description and Teaching Materials

Part 1:

Prior to the first day of the module, give students a small homework assignment. Before the start of class (something like 2–24 hours before—whatever works for your particular teaching situation), they are to send you an interesting video that includes human impacts from the 2011 Tohoku, Japan, Mag 9.1 Earthquake and two facts: one related to the human impact from the event and one related to something Japan has done to mitigate against earthquake risk. Tell them you will share some of the best examples with the class. This assignment has the effect of getting students to actually read more facts and look at more videos than they actually turn in to you. (Remind them to cite their sources.)

Part 2:

Prior to class, quickly review the videos and facts that students have turned in. Select one or two videos to show the whole class. Invite students to volunteer societal impacts, summarize them on the board, and contribute additional ones you think are important. Then cycle through the rest of the PowerPoint slides as a series of think-pair-share exercises. Potential questions to pose are listed in the Notes section of the presentation. The final slide includes two questions to help students reflect on their learning. The inclusion of reflection (or metacognition) is an essential component of learning. If you have your students do Minute Papers or "muddiest point" cards at the end of class, the same basic purpose is served.

Unit 1 Slides for Think-Pair-Share activity
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Unit 1 Slides for Think-Pair-Share activity (PowerPoint 2007 (.pptx) 14.5MB Dec4 16)
Unit 1 Slides for Think-Pair-Share - with more instructor notes and some answer suggestions


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Also consider showing the UNAVCO animation
Youtube: What can GPS tell us about future earthquakes?
MP4 file: What can GPS tell us about future earthquakes? (MP4 Video 11MB Sep17 15)
This animation can serve the dual purpose of introducing students to: (1) the similarities between Japan and the US Pacific Northwest and (2) what GPS can show about strain build up.

Teaching Notes and Tips

  • Adding links to selected videos sent by the students at the bottom of slide 4 can help animate the discussion of hazard and risk by making it all much more real.
  • The nuclear disaster slide (slide 7) and the tsunami slide (slide 9) have relatively complicated graphics with some small text. You may want to print color copies of these slides for your students so that they can read and interpret these details.
  • While students are learning about earthquakes, you may consider taking the opportunity to have the students do a basic earthquake drill of Drop-Cover-HoldOn. It is a prime time to make sure they know what to do to be safe if they are ever in an earthquake. Earthquake Country Alliance has great resources on basic earthquake safety. More resources are available from The Great ShakeOut international earthquake drill, Redwood Coast Tsunami Workgroup for coastal areas with tsunami threat, and of course FEMA and Red Cross.

Assessment

Formative assessment:

This is the introductory unit to the module, so as such there is no summative assessment. Formative assessment is done by the instructor in the form of group and individual student discussions. For the grading of the small homework assignment it would be appropriate to give credit if the assignment is completed and appropriate and no credit if undone or off target. Some instructors may choose to offer the homework as extra credit or offer an extra credit incentive for a student whose video is selected.

References and Resources

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This module is part of a growing collection of classroom-tested materials developed by GETSI. The materials engage students in understanding the earth system as it intertwines with key societal issues. The collection is freely available and ready to be adapted by undergraduate educators across a range of courses including: general education or majors courses in Earth-focused disciplines such as geoscience or environmental science, social science, engineering, and other sciences, as well as courses for interdisciplinary programs.
Explore the Collection »