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Earthquakes Lesson

Updated on October 7, 2014
Our "civil engineer" children constructed buildings to withstand earthquakes using toothpicks, marshmallows, and pans of jello
Our "civil engineer" children constructed buildings to withstand earthquakes using toothpicks, marshmallows, and pans of jello

This is part 5 of a 6 part hands-on unit study on Earth Science. Create a tsunami, build marshmallow structures that can withstand an earthquake, act out seismic waves, build and use a seismograph, and more! My lessons are geared toward 2nd-3rd grade level children and their siblings. These are lessons I created to do with a weekly homeschool co-op. We meet each week for 2 1/2 hours and have 14 children between the ages of 0-12. Use these fun lessons with your classroom, family, camp, after school program, or co-op!

Please DO NOT copy this elsewhere without giving proper credit:

http://iijuan12.hubpages.com/hub/earthquake-lesson-for-homeschool .

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Intro & Faults

1. Stretch & pray. Discuss Psalm 46.

2. Read Earthquakes by Franklin Branley.

3. Quickly discuss the general traits of an earthquake. If you'd like a general idea of what you can say, check out this Earth Science unit.

4. Demonstrate what causes faults. Talk about the pressure building that causes faults. Pass out a piece of uncooked spaghetti to each child. This represents the rocks on the Earth's crust. Have them bend it, adding more and more pressure until it finally snaps. Explain how this is similar to how crusts break when the movement of plates puts too much pressure on the crust. If you'd like a general idea of what you can say, check out this Earth Science unit.

TEACHER/FAMILY 1: YOU WILL NEED: (per child) 1 piece of uncooked spaghetti OR popsicle sticks

5. Act of the 3 main types of faults: strike-slip faults, normal faults, and reverse faults. Have the children stand in a big circle.

Strike-slip fault (San Andreas Fault in California): Have the children hold their hands in front of themselves, side by side, with the palms up. Their hands are the rocks on either side of a fault. Have them slide one hand away from their body and the other hand move toward their body. That's what happens at a strike slip fault. Have them repeat "strike-slip fault" as they do this. Usually fences and roads will break when this type of fault shifts.

Normal fault: Have the children hold their hands in front of themselves with their fingers

pointing toward each other. Have them lay the fingers of one hand over the fingers of the other hand, and then move their hands away from each other. This is what happens at a normal fault works. Have them repeat "normal fault" as they do this.

Reverse/Thrust fault: Have the children hold up their hands again as described for a normal fault. Now have them move their hands toward each other. This is what happens at a reverse fault or thrust fault. Have them repeat "reverse fault" and "thrust fault" as they do this.

If you'd like a general idea of what more you can say, check out this Earth Science unit.

Earthquakes (Let's-Read-and-Find-Out Science)
Earthquakes (Let's-Read-and-Find-Out Science)

This is the read aloud book we used to introduce earthquakes. It briefly covers most of the topics we will be studying in this lesson.

 
Jump into Science: Earthquakes
Jump into Science: Earthquakes

This would be another great read aloud option to use to introduce earthquakes. It has appealing illustrations and provides a nice overview.

 
Demonstrating how faults cause tsunamis
Demonstrating how faults cause tsunamis

Tsunamis

6. (Do this outside or in a place that can get wet just in case) Demonstrate how faults cause tsunamis. Pass out zipperlock bags half-full of water. Make sure they are sealed well! Have the children hold their hands in front of themselves as you they did before. Have them hold the bag of water on their palms. Have them watch what happens to the water when they slide one hand away from themselves just like they did with the strike slip fault. The water didn't move much, did it? Now have them move one of their hands upwards quickly like what they did with the reverse or thrust fault and normal fault. The water rushes quite a bit more. They just caused a tsunami!

If you'd like a general idea of what more you can say, check out this Earth Science unit.

TEACHER/FAMILY 2: YOU WILL NEED: (per child) 1 quart-sized zipperlock bags filled half-way with water

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Fault Lines & Earthquakes Tug-of-War

7. (Do outside or in a large, open space) Demonstrate the stress along the fault line by having the children play tug-of war. As one side starts pulling the other side, some of the kids on the losing side start to give up. That means the rest of the losing team has to work harder. The pressure is building. Finally they give up and get tugged to the other side. If this was really a fault line with each of the teams representing one side of the earth's crust, one team losing would mean an earthquake had occurred. In the case of a real earthquake, though, the pressure builds for years rather than minutes.

If you'd like a general idea of what more you can say, read this Earth Science unit.

TEACHER/FAMILY 3: YOU WILL NEED: (per group of 10-14 children) 1 rope appropriate for using for tug-of-war

More Good Children's Books on Earthquakes

Also look for Francis, the Earthquake Dog by J. Enderle, S. Tessler, The Earthshaking Earthquake Mystery (Masters of Disasters) by Carole Marsh (a chapter book), Earthquakes and Other Natural Disasters (DK READERS) by Harriet Griffey, Earthquake (The Magic School Bus to the Rescue) by Gail Herman, and Earthquakes: All Aboard Science Reader Station Stop 2 by Jennifer Dussling. I did have to change evolutionary language in all of these books, but they are still worth reading.

The Earth-Shaking Facts about Earthquakes with Max Axiom, Super Scientist (Graphic Science)
The Earth-Shaking Facts about Earthquakes with Max Axiom, Super Scientist (Graphic Science)

My children love this series, and they really enjoyed this book! The illustrations are presented in a graphic/comic book style. It is kind of like a more advanced Magic School Bus series.

 
See More Readers: Danger! Earthquakes -Level 2
See More Readers: Danger! Earthquakes -Level 2

My children enjoyed this book on earthquakes and it has some great pictures!

 
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Earthquake Demo

8. Demonstrate slip and slide motion that causes earthquakes using rubber bands, a block of wood, and a block. Before co-op build an earthquake demonstration model. Get 1 long piece of wood (approx. 54x6x1/4 inches) and a second stout piece of wood (approx 16x4x2 inches). Attach an s-hook to the stout piece of wood. Attach a short bungee cord to the s-hook. Attach a short rope or thick twine to the other end of the bungee cord. Lay the long piece of wood on a table. Lay the stout piece of wood on top of the long piece of wood. These two boards represent plates along a normal fault. Lay a brick on top of the stout piece of wood. Put some army men, action figures, toy animals, or whatever on top of your brick. Pull the rope, which will pull the bungee cord. This is building up energy. Eventually the stout board/brick will lunge forward creating an "earthquake." Let each child take a turn creating an "earthquake." As each child pulls back the rope say, "You're creating stress." When the board/brick lunges forward say, "Earthquake!" If desired, measure how far the "earth" lunged by setting up cans next to the long board. We'd quickly comment, "Wow! That one was 4 Pepsi cans!"

If you'd like a general idea of what more you can say, check out this Earth Science unit.

TEACHER/FAMILY 4: YOU WILL NEED: An earthquake demonstration model: 1 long piece of wood (approx. 54x6x1/4 inches), a stout piece of wood (approx 16x4x2 inches), an s-hook, a short bungee cord OR sturdy rubber band, short rope OR thick twine, a brick, items that will fall (some army men, action figures, toy animals, etc.) (We purchased all of the above items from Lowes for a few dollars.)

Our "civil engineer" children constructed buildings to withstand earthquakes using toothpicks, marshmallows, and pans of jello
Our "civil engineer" children constructed buildings to withstand earthquakes using toothpicks, marshmallows, and pans of jello

Architects & Engineers and Earthquakes

9. Briefly discuss the importance of architects and structural engineers in regards to building structures that can withstand earthquakes. Show pictures of some of the designs that have been successful. Become civil engineers and construct buildings that can withstand an earthquake using toothpicks and marshmallows. Show them how to break toothpicks in half and mention that cubes and triangles may be stacked to make towers. The towers can have small or large bases. If you'd like a general idea of more that you can say, read this engineering lesson.

TEACHER/FAMILY 1: YOU WILL NEED: (per child) 50 toothpicks, 50 miniature marshmallows, 1 piece of wax paper

10. Show the waves of earthquakes using Jell-o and test out the structures. Let the children put their structures in a pan of jell-o and watch what happens when an "earthquake" hits. We simply laid the pans of jell-o in the middle of the table where the children worked and let them test out their structures (i.e. lay the marshmallow structure on top and wiggle the pan) as other children finished up making theirs. Some kids can re-build and re-test.

TEACHER/FAMILY 2: YOU WILL NEED: (per group of 4-5 children) 1 boxes of prepared Jell-o

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Richter Scale

11. Discuss the Richter Scale. Use balls laid against a map of the US to show the difference in Richter Scale ratings (not scientifically accurate but gives a general idea that the larger the number, the further across the land tremors can be felt): 3 = marble, 4 = golf ball, 6 = baseball, 8=soccer ball. (Idea came from Earthquake Games by Matthys Levy)

TEACHER/FAMILY 3: YOU WILL NEED: map, marble, golf ball, baseball, soccer ball

Our homemade seismograph recording "earthquake" vibrations
Our homemade seismograph recording "earthquake" vibrations

Seismographs

12. Show how a seismograph records the vibrations of an earthquake by allowing children to shake a small table with a homemade seismograph on it. Divide the group into 2 teams. Give each team a small table (like a TV tray), a shoebox that has 2 squares cut from the sides to hold a rolling pin & 1 hole punched in the side to hold a marker, a rolling pin, tape to hold paper to the rolling pin, a roll of paper, and a marker. You can look at the picture to get a general idea of how we made these. Have two children shake the table gently and wildly and in between while another child pulls the paper strip out. Bring the children back together and have them look at the papers. Notice the big zigzags when the shaking was heavy and the small zigzags when it was gentle? This is basically how a seismograph works. (We followed the directions from p. 52 of Geology Rocks by Cindy Blobaum.)

TEACHER/FAMILY 4: YOU WILL NEED: (per group of 5 children) 1 prepared seismograph made from a shoe box, rolling pin, marker, tape, roll of paper, & table that's not sturdy like a TV tray table

Using slinkies to mimic seismic waves
Using slinkies to mimic seismic waves

Seismic Waves

12. -Divide children into pairs and have them sit in 2 lines with each child facing their partner. Discuss 3 types of waves produced by an earthquake and demonstrate using slinkies. Tell the children that earthquake waves vibrate in 3 ways: faster & slower, sideways, or up & down. The direction of the movement of the wave determines how large the resulting sea waves will be. A seismograph records these waves on a seismogram. The front strike produces a P (primary) wave, the side strike produces an S (secondary) wave, and the top strike produces an L (surface) wave.

-Hand each pair a slinky. The person on right will start out by being the "mover" and the person on the left will be the "holder." The "holder" will hold the other end of the slinky while the "mover" shakes it the way I tell them to shake it.

-P-WAVES (PUSH & PULL): The "mover" should push the slinky toward the holder. Tell the "mover" to pull the slinky toward themselves a bit and then push it away toward the "holder." The wave travels from you to your partner. You should see that the vibrating parts of the slinky move back and forth along the same direction in which the wave is traveling. P-waves/primary waves are the first waves that the seismograph records. These are the fastest of the earthquake waves, arriving first at distant points. P-waves push and pull the underground rocks, causing structures on the surface to move back and forth. Have them repeat "P-wave/primary wave" as they do this.

-Switch. Now the person on right will be the "holder" and the person on the left will be the "mover." The "holder" will hold the other end of the slinky while the "mover" shakes it the way I tell them to shake it.

-S-WAVES (SIDE TO SIDE): The "mover" shakes the slinky from side to side. Now the slinky moves from side to side (horizontally). S-waves are slower than P-waves. S-waves are the second waves that the seismograph records. S-waves can travel through solid rock but not through liquids (like the ocean) or gases (like the air). S-waves move the rocks beneath the earth's surface from side to side, giving buildings on the surface a good shaking, often causing a lot of damage. S-waves shake you up and down, so they could toss you out of your seat! Have them repeat "S-wave/secondary wave" as they do this.

-Switch. Now the person on right will be the "mover" and the person on the left will be the "holder." The "holder" will hold the other end of the slinky while the "mover" shakes it the way I tell them to shake it.

-L-WAVES (LONGITUDINAL): The "mover" lifts the spring up and snaps it down. The L wave is the biggest of the three. L waves cause the most damage and cause tsunamis. Have them repeat "L-wave/longitudinal wave" as they do this.

-If you'd like a general idea of what more you can say, read this Earth Science lesson.

TEACHER/FAMILY 4: YOU WILL NEED:(per pair of children) 1 slinkie (We got small ones from the Oriental Trading Company)

Original Slinky Brand Slinky
Original Slinky Brand Slinky

This is perfect for demonstrating seismic waves; plus, it's just plain fun to have around.

 

13. (Do outside or in a large, open space) Act out 3 types of seismic waves.

Have children act out one of the three types of seismic waves. Divide the children into 3 groups, each lead by an adult.

-P-waves group repeats this sequence: take 2 steps forward and 1 step back

-S-waves group repeats this sequence: take 2 steps to the right, 1 step forward, 2 steps to the left, and then 1 step forward

-L-waves group repeats this sequence: take 1 step forward, pause, jump twice in place, take another step forward, pause, jump twice in place.

Have the groups stand in a line and begin at a starting line. If the children don't "cheat," the P waves should arrive at the finish line first, S-waves second and L-waves third.

(Idea came from this Earth Science unit.)

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Review Earth Science Songs

14. Review Earth Science songs from previous weeks in preparation for next week's Earth Science Unit presentations .

a. Sing How God Put the Earth Together (adapted from How the Earth Works by O'Brien-Palmer from Originally Rocks and Shocks: Singable Science Songs)

Tune: "I'm a Little Teapot" (Motions are underlined.)

Earth has 4 layers inside to out.

(Hold up 4 fingers)

Traveling in space, it spins about.

(Spin around)

The inner core's a solid metal ball

(Squeeze your fist)

Known as the center of the earth to all.

The outer core is layer number 2.

(Lay your left hand over your squeezed fist.)

It's liquid iron and nickel all through.

A mantle of rock is layer 3.

(Flex your biceps as you say 'rock.' Hold up 3 fingers when you sing "3.")

Crust forms the surface for land and sea.

Earth is a puzzle of 13 plates,

Slowly moving as they meet their mates.

(Slowly wave back and forth.)

Some collide, some slide, some let lava through

(For "collide" slap hands together, for "slide" slide hands back and forth, for "let lava through" wiggle your fingers)

As they float beneath both me and you.

(Slowly wave back and forth as you point to yourself and to someone standing in front of you.)

Before Noah's flood the continents were one

(Hold up 1 finger)

Due to sin their movement is never done

(Sadly shake your head)

Seven continents slowly move around

(Slowly sway and hold up 7 fingers)

On the hydronic plates that form the ground.

(Point to the ground and jump as you say "ground.")

b. Sing "The Rock Cycle Song" from my lesson on Rock Classification.

c. Sing "What Inside a Volcano" from my lesson on Volcanoes and Plate Tectonics.

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Snack and Review

15. Eat jell-o and marshmallow structures.

TEACHER/FAMILY 3: YOU WILL NEED: (per child) 1 spoon, 1 plate, 1 napkin, 1 small cup for water

16. (While children eat) Discuss earthquake in Haiti, Japan, and/or other recent event and how Christians helped and are helping.

17. 5 Minute Review of what we learned.

Good Video Clips on Earthquakes

Ready for the next lesson?

Make an edible model of the earth as you study the Earth's layers, bake cookies that demonstrate how sedimentary, metamorphic, and igneous rocks form, create fossil casts, build marshmallow structures that can withstand a jell-o earthquake, carve gullies and valleys in sand using wind, water, and ice, make presentations on various aspects of the Earth, and more during this 6 lesson hands-on unit study of Earth Science!

  • Earth's Layers and Soil Composition Lesson - This is part 1 of a 6 part hands-on unit on Earth Science from a Christian perspective. Make an edible model of the earth, act out each of the Earth's layers, do core testing on a cupcake, make oobleck, and more!
  • Rock Classification Lesson - This is part 2 of a 6 part hands-on unit on Earth Science from a Christian perspective. Make and eat "Sedimentary" Seven Layer Bars, create "Metamorphic" Snickers bars, do some rock mining, and more!
  • Fossils Lesson - This is part 3 of a 6 part hands-on unit on Earth Science from a Christian perspective. The focus of this lesson is fossils! Create fossils casts, dig up and piece together dinosaur skeletons, excavate dinosaurs, eat edible ammonites, and more!
  • Plate Tectonics and Volcanoes Lesson - This is part 4 of a 6 part hands-on unit study on Earth Science. Make edible volcanoes, build an erupting ring of fire, demonstrate plate tectonics using graham crackers, form each type of volcano using play-doh, and more!
  • Earthquakes Lesson - This is part 5 of a 6 part hands-on unit study on Earth Science. Create a tsunami, build marshmallow structures that can withstand an earthquake, act out seismic waves, build and use a seismograph, and more!
  • Erosion Lesson - This is part 6 of a 6 part hands-on unit study on Earth Science. Demonstrate various types of erosion as children carve gullies and valleys in sand using air, water, and ice. Re-create the Grand Canyon. Compare how soil resists erosion.
  • Earth Science Presentation and Field Trip Ideas - This is the culminating project we did after a 6 part hands-on unit on Earth Science. We made edible volcanoes, performed earth science demonstrations, displayed paintings of the earth's layers and volcanoes, sang songs about the earth science, and more! Also included are the field trips we attended during this unit.

Konos Volume II
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    • mekon1971 profile image

      mekon1971 6 years ago

      relevance, relevance!

    • profile image

      bdkz 6 years ago

      Very neat lesson!

    • mattseefood lm profile image

      mattseefood lm 6 years ago

      Great info! Thanks for your knowledge :)

    • Brite-Ideas profile image

      Barbara Tremblay Cipak 6 years ago from Toronto, Canada

      excellent lens and very useful

    • lasertek lm profile image

      lasertek lm 6 years ago

      really interesting ideas you've got.

      Take a peek at my lens, Homeschooling 101: Guide to Free Curriculum and Other Resources

    • stephenteacher profile image

      Stephen Carr 6 years ago from Corona, CA

      Love the plans, nice lens.

    • kimark421 profile image

      kimark421 6 years ago

      Very nice lens. I learned a lot, and I'm 50. Thanks!

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Nice!

    • LilliputStation profile image

      LilliputStation 5 years ago

      Thanks, I love all your activities!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      What fun lessons, even us kids at heart enjoy them!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Very well done, fun, and informative. Thanks for sharing the lesson plan.

      Blessed!

    • LeopoldBlatt profile image

      LeopoldBlatt 5 years ago

      Very useful, interesting and informative lens. I liked it.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Very useful and informative lens.

    • profile image

      ideadesigns 5 years ago

      Loving this lesson. I like your activities for discussing how Christians help out in the aftermath of Haiti and Japan. That can put it in perspective and teach what it's like for a missionary and volunteers in the work they do. Eating the marshmallows & jello... probably the best part!

    • profile image

      julieannbrady 5 years ago

      Gosh, Mother Nature is one serious mom!!! And, earthquakes can be quite disastrous.

    • JoyfulPamela2 profile image

      JoyfulPamela2 5 years ago from Pennsylvania, USA

      Cool! This is just what I need for this week's science lessons for BJ! Thank you so much! =D

    • KimGiancaterino profile image

      KimGiancaterino 5 years ago

      I've been through several big earthquakes. In fact, we're due for another here in Los Angeles. It's always good to be prepared and aware of what is happening.

    • snazzify lm profile image

      Katie Harp 5 years ago

      blessed by a squid angel :) <3

    • TTMall profile image

      TTMall 5 years ago

      Thank you for such an informative lens.

    • profile image

      Annamadagan 5 years ago

      Wow! Lot's of amazing information and ideas. I love how you linked it with the Bible. Blessed by a Squid Angel!

    • profile image

      JoshK47 5 years ago

      Fantastic ideas here for lessons, plus, you won me over further with the Bill Nye video - blessed by a SquidAngel!

    • rachelscott profile image

      rachelscott 5 years ago

      Your lens is splendid

    • Ben Reed profile image

      Ben Reed 5 years ago

      Lots of ideas and information contained here.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Lots of useful info, thanx.

    • favored profile image

      Fay Favored 5 years ago from USA

      Love teaching 8th grade History. The kids were the best. Excellent lesson, and liked seeing my old friend Billy. Always loved his take on things.

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      anonymous 5 years ago

      Very informative lens, definitely info that's great to know!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      nice Lens ⥠⥠â¥

    • profile image

      sheezie77 5 years ago

      Very useful lens, great job!

    • iijuan12 profile image
      Author

      iijuan12 5 years ago from Florida

      @sheezie77: Thank you!

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      Donnette Davis 4 years ago from South Africa

      Your work is amazing! Blessed x

    • iijuan12 profile image
      Author

      iijuan12 4 years ago from Florida

      @donnetted: Thank you!

    • profile image

      xtianfriborg13 4 years ago

      It's important we all know those things. The precautionary measures and all. It's scary, in a way..

    • iijuan12 profile image
      Author

      iijuan12 4 years ago from Florida

      @xtianfriborg13: Definitely! Thank you for visiting!

    • tedwritesstuff24 profile image

      TedWritesStuff 4 years ago

      Love the science based parts of this lens ;-)

    • iijuan12 profile image
      Author

      iijuan12 4 years ago from Florida

      @tedwritesstuff24: Thank you!

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      anonymous 4 years ago

      Thank you for posting all these great ideas. I'm hosting our Boys Group this month & plan to use many for our hands-on lessons.

    • iijuan12 profile image
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      iijuan12 4 years ago from Florida

      @anonymous: Great! I'm glad you'll be able to use the fun activities!

    • TheFreeLife profile image

      TheFreeLife 4 years ago

      Love Bill Nye! Makes me miss school.

    • iijuan12 profile image
      Author

      iijuan12 4 years ago from Florida

      @TheFreeLife: Thank you for visiting!

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      Malu Couttolenc 4 years ago

      Excellent earthquake lesson; it will help children and everyone learn and understand more about them. :)

    • iijuan12 profile image
      Author

      iijuan12 4 years ago from Florida

      @TheLittleCardShop: Thank you!

    • Jogalog profile image

      Jogalog 4 years ago

      This sounds like a great lesson. I loved learning about earthquakes and natural disasters when I was at school.

    • iijuan12 profile image
      Author

      iijuan12 4 years ago from Florida

      @Jogalog: Thank you!

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      Bartukas 4 years ago

      Very great and useful lens well done!

    • iijuan12 profile image
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      iijuan12 4 years ago from Florida

      @Bartukas: Thank you!

    • LLMom27 profile image

      LLMom27 3 years ago

      These are wonderful. Thank you for taking the time to share. I will be teaching earth science this year to my homeschooled children, and these will be so helpful. God Bless you

    • iijuan12 profile image
      Author

      iijuan12 3 years ago from Florida

      @LLMom27: Great! I'm so happy you'll be able to use the lessons!

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