Teachers Learn Geophysics and Seismology Principles

Staff from IRIS, UNAVCO and the EarthScope National Office conducted a professional development workshop for teachers at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in early June. Twenty four teachers from Nebraska and eastern Colorado attended. During the workshop, entitled "Explore Central Great Plains Geology and Geophysics through the EarthScope Program," the teachers improved their foundation in geophysics, learned how EarthScope is investigating the Great Plains using geophysics, and participated in activities and demonstrations that can be used in their classrooms.
The National Science Foundation-sponsored workshop featured a day and a half of activities and talks on using current geophysical data to teach earth science. After an introduction to EarthScope and a review of plate tectonics, teachers used a simple model of the earth to construct a travel time curve. They then used the model to explore earth's structure and the concept of seismic tomography. Later, the teachers had fun playing with the five-slinky model, acting as human seismic waves, and building their own seismographs. Computer-based activities were a prominent  focus of the workshop, too. The instructors guided teachers as they used the web-based EarthScope Voyager, Jr. tool to understand the relationship between earthquakes, volcanoes and plate tectonics; the Seismic Eruption software to "predict" the occurrence of earthquakes; and online GPS time series plots to investigate plate motion. The teachers also learned a new way to use seismograms to locate an earthquake's epicenter. Instead of using interpreted seismograms from a textbook, they scrutinized actual three-component seismograms to determine P- and S-wave arrival times and then used their readings to find the earthquake's epicenter on an inflatable globe. The workshop ended with an exploration of Episodic Tremor and Slip in the Pacific Northwest.

The School of Natural Resources at the University of Nebraska -Lincoln hosted the teachers, and geologist Dr. Matt Joeckel discussed Nebraska geology and how geophysicists will use USArray data to understand the earthquake risk along the Mid-Continent Rift under eastern Nebraska. On the first night of the workshop, the University of Nebraska State Museum hosted the teachers and instructors for a dinner surrounded by skeletons of ancient elephants.