Unit 1: Earthquake!
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.
Unit 1 Learning Outcomes
- Students will be able to describe human impacts from the 2011 Tohoku, Japan, earthquake
- Students will be able to interpret a variety of images related to the science and human impact of earthquakes
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
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.)
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 (PowerPoint 2007 (.pptx) 14.5MB Dec4 16)
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.
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
- Wikipedia: Aftermath of the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami
- A few particularly good videos about the Japan 2011 earthquake and tsunami
- JAPAN TSUNAMI 2011 - river and harbor footage posted by Joseph Friedman
- Most Unbelievable footage of Japanese Tsunami I have seen so far (taken from helicopter) posted by Yasir Ali
- Japan earthquake: Tsunami hits north-east - BBC report
- The Road to Recovery and Reconstruction from the Great East Japan Earthquake - Japanese Government Internet TV
- Earthquake and tsunami preparedness: