Lesson Plan

Exploring Earthquakes with the 5 E's

Have your Students Explore Earthquakes with in this Blended Learning Experience.
Barbara H.
Education Program Manager, Mid-Atlantic/D.C. Metro Area - Common Sense Education
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Students will be able to... map earthquake data to determine plate boundaries, read seismograms to determine the epicenters of earthquakes, use drawing compasses to triangulate the location of an earthquake and think critically about why destruction varies beyond the magnitude of earthquakes.

Grades 6 - 12
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Teacher Notes
Student Notes

1 Engage - Why so much damage in Haiti?

1.  Upload a clip about the devastation in Haiti's Earthquake in 2010 into Zaption.    Zaption is great because you can add multiple choice questions, images and free response questions into your video clip.

2.  A great source for video based clips is Discovery Education.   Discovery Ed has video clips specifically about Haiti's Earthquake.

3.  Edit a clip and put a few questions for the students to answer during the video clip. 

      Examples of Questions:

      1.  Why is Haiti so susceptible to Earthquakes?

      2.  List 3 reasons why Haiti's Earthquake was much more destructive than the Earthquake that happened in Chile later that year with a higher magnitude?

4.  Assign the video the night before the lesson for your students to watch before class the next day.  

2 Explore - Where Earthquakes have occured in the past 30 days on Google Earth.

1.  Download the KML file on the USGS site for Earthquakes with a magnitude of 2.5+ for the past 30 days.  

2.  Have students upload the file into Google Earth.

3.  Have the students work in groups of 4 and each student in the group should gather data for a quadrant of North America.  

4.  Provide a chart for students to mark down the locations of at least 20 Earthquakes in their area.  

5.  Have the students share their data with each other and map out the locations of the Earthquakes on a paper map.  (See student instructions.) 

Student Instructions

Assign each person in your group a quadrant of the map of North America to explore on Google Earth.  This map is located on the second page of this assignment.  If there are less than 4 people in your group today everyone will have to cover the other quadrant(s).  

Open the USGS (United States Geological Survey) KML Earthquake File.  This file will open up in Google Earth and will show all of the Earthquakes around the world that have occurred in the past 30 days.  

Use the legend to read the earthquake locations.  The larger the circle the greater the magnitude of the earthquake.  The color determines the time the earthquake occurred.
You may need to zoom in to see the earthquakes better. Click on at least 15 earthquake dots in your area and write down the information for them in the table below.   If there is a “cluster” of earthquakes note that in the chart below and discuss how many earthquakes are around there in the observations section of your data table.  

Write what quadrant you are observing in the title of the chart below.  (1,2,3 or 4)

  4.  Map the your earthquakes for your quadrant to the best of your ability using the longitude and latitude measurements as a guide on the map below.   Write the magnitude of the Earthquakes next to the dots.      If you had “clusters” of earthquakes map those as well to the best of your ability to show the frequency of Earthquakes in those areas.  

    5.  On Google Earth make sure the Tectonic Plates box is checked under the USGS Magnitude List on the top left hand box labeled Places.  

    6.  Draw in the different boundaries to the best of your ability that exist in your quadrant and label them using different colors.   Include a legend of what each color means. (For example continental convergent, etc.)

Share & Discuss with your group. 

1.  Were there any places with earthquake activity that surprised your group?   Why or why not?

2.  Where did the most Earthquakes occur in North America?    Why do you think this is?

3.  Where did the highest magnitude earthquake recorded by your group occur?   

4.  Did the highest magnitude earthquake location surprise you?   Why or why not?

5.  Looking at all of your group members maps, what boundaries have a high frequency of Earthquakes?   

6.  Do Earthquakes occur in places that are not on a plate boundary?   Hypothesize with your group on how you think this might happen and write your thoughts below.  

3 Explain - How Earthquakes Happen Using Nearpod

Use Nearpod to create a presentation reviewing major Earthquake topics like what boundaries Earthquakes happen on, reading seismographs, determining magnitude and triangulating the location of an Earthquake.

With Nearpod you can ask multiple choice questions, free response questions, video clips, images, slides and have the students draw on a nomogram to determine the magnitude of an Earthquake using data.  

Students will practice while they are learning and you can give them immediate feedback with Nearpod and see what concepts need to be revisited before you go to the next activity.  


4 Extend - Determine the Epicenter of an Earthquake

1.  Have the students read seismographs and map out an Earthquake virtually with Glencoe Virtual Labs.   Glencoe takes students through the steps to locate the epicenter of an earthquake.  

         *  Make a Question sheet for the students to fill out their information as they go through the virtual lab.  

2.  Then have students use drawing compasses, seismographs and scales to triangulate the location of an Earthquake on paper.  

5 Evaluate - How Much You Know with an Informal Formative Quiz.

1.  Create a short quiz to determine mastery of the concepts in Formative.  Formative will give you real time data on what concepts your students have mastered.  You can see  what students are struggling on your computer screen as the students are answering.  With formative you can incorporate multiple choice, free response and drawing functions.   See student directions for some examples of questioning.      


Student Instructions

Answer the following questions on Formative.  

1.  Locate the epicenter of the earthquake by reading the results of 3 seismograms.

2.  Determine the magnitude of the Earthquake that happened in San Francisco by reading 3 seismograms and drawing the data on a nomogram.  

3.  Discuss how seismic waves help determine what the interior of the Earth is made of?  

4.  Explain why there was so much damage in Haiti even though the Earthquake wasn't as high as other quakes that had less damage?   Use at least 3 factos that caused more damage in your explanation.