Let's Look Inside the Earth

David Zelenka, Interactive Earth
Author Profile

Summary

Students will analyze USGS seismology data in the classroom using spreadsheets and scatter plots to look for patterns and structure in the Earth's crust. Before analyzing data, students will learn about the methods scientists use to gather seismic data. They will explore plate tectonics, plate boundaries, and volcanoes using Google Earth. The teacher will provide demonstrations on the types of faults and how earthquakes propagate and travel through the earth.

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Context

Audience

Middle school or high school earth science.

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

Students will need to have a general understanding of the latitude and longitude system. Longitude data for the Western Hemisphere will be displayed as a negative number because it is east of the Greenwich meridian. If students do not already have this knowledge, provide them a brief overview before the Plate Boundaries activity.
Learner Preconception/Misconception: Students may not know that earthquakes only occur in the thin crustal portion of the Earth. The crust is relatively thin.

How the activity is situated in the course

This 4-5 day investigation is situated within an earth science unit.

Goals

Content/concepts goals for this activity

Earthquakes are caused by movements tectonic plates and by displacement of crustal material.
Scientists use seismic data to visualize crustal structures, faults, and plate boundaries.

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

MS-ESS2-2: Construct an explanation based on evidence for how geoscience processes have changed Earth's surface at varying time and spatial scales.
MS-ESS2-3: Analyze and interpret data on the distribution of fossils and rocks, continental shapes, and seafloor structures to provide evidence of the past plate motions.

Other skills goals for this activity

Use a spreadsheet to analyze and interpret data.
Construct an argument from evidence.

Description and Teaching Materials

In this 4-5 day investigation students will analyze USGS seismology data in the classroom using spreadsheets and scatter plots to look for patterns and structure in the Earth's crust. Before analyzing data, students will learn about the methods scientists use to gather seismic data. They will explore plate tectonics, plate boundaries, and volcanoes using Google Earth. The teacher will provide demonstrations on the types of faults and how earthquakes propagate and travel through the earth.

ENGAGE - Seismology study
EXPLORE - Plate boundaries exploration
EXPLAIN - Faults demonstrations
EXPLORE - Spreadsheet-oriented data visualization
ELABORATE - Online USGS Data Visualization
EVALUATE - Students are Assessed

Full Investigation:
https://docs.google.com/document/d/1rKdhJFjYGAuR_gfKCJ21jQ1l2YpKBo04FzdEdUsiibc/edit#

Teaching Notes and Tips

Instructional Clarification: You will want to practice downloading and visualizing a dataset before engaging in the visualization component to this activity. Because the USGS earthquake depth column is a positive number, students will need to modify that data by multiplying that column by (-1), which will invert the data properly.

Assessment

References and Resources

How to graph USGS earthquake data in Google Sheets:
https://youtu.be/5DTsTB7gLTo

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