Classroom Lessons and Demonstrations

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Title Resource Type Audience Description
Wells, Nevada Earthquake Teachable Moment (external) Presentation Undergraduate A PowerPoint with slides on Basin and Range tectonics and science results about the earthquake.
Utah Mine Collapse Teachable Moment (external) Presentation Undergraduate Text and PowerPoint using the Utah mine collapse to teach focal mechanisms.
UNIX Tutorial for Beginners Activity Undergraduate A beginners guide to the Unix and Linux operating system. Eight simple tutorials which cover the basics of UNIX / Linux commands.
Triangulating Earthquake Locations Online Activity Grades 5 to 12 Enter user-defined data; up to 4 station locations, the user determined distance from the station to the epicenter and the location (epicenter) of a selected event, and display this information on a map. Access the Large View Map Generator or the Small View Map Generator to enter the station & event information and generate your map
The History of Seismology Poster All Audiences Depicting original sketches, photographs and colorful new imagery, this poster captures the major milestones of the development in the field of seismology. Seismology's rich history begins with Robert Hooke's 1676 paper titled "True Theory of Elasticity or Springness" and continues through the 1830 discovery of P and S waves, the 1930's discovery of the inner core by Inge Lehman, and includes recent innovations such as shake maps, real-time collections of maps depicting shaking intensity within seconds of an earthquake.
The 10.5 Teachable Moment Activity All Audiences 1. Students will be able to describe earthquake magnitude. 2. Students will b able to explain major factors that contribute to the amount energy released from an earthquake. 3. Students will be able to explain the likelihood of a mega quake like 10.5 "under the objectives column" and 45 minutes under the time heading.
Test Stats Activity Grades 5 to 12 This page is to test stats.
Sumatra Earthquake Links Other All Audiences Links to resources on the Sumatra-Andaman Islands Earthquake.
Sumatra - Andaman Island Earthquake Poster All Audiences This assembly of seismograms displays the vertical movement of the Earth's surface due to seismic waves generated by the earthquake. The seismograms are plotted with respect to time since the start of the earthquake on the horizontal axis and are sorted vertically according to distance from the epicenter in degrees.
Simple Broadband Processing in Matlab Activity Undergraduate This tutorial provides some basic tools and procedures generally used to understand broadband seismic data with Matlab. This is just one simple toolkit and many more are available by searching the IRIS website.
Simple Analysis of broadband data w/Matlab or Unix Activity Undergraduate This tutorial guides users through obtaining data for a recent earthquake and how to conduct some simple analysis of broadband data.
Silly Putty or Oobleck - which is a better model for the Asthenosphere? Activity Grades 5 to 12 Because S-waves are able to travel through Earth's Asthenosphere scientists infer that it is nearly solid. However, one of the fundamental concepts of plate tectonics is that this hot, weak solid flows over long periods of time (a property generally associated with liquids). For most students, the notion of a "solid flowing" is very discrepant. Given both the fundamental and discrepant nature of the concept, it is important that learners have an opportunity interact with concrete models of the Asthenospehere so they can add this to their own mental model of plate tectonics. In this activity students will compare and contrast Silly Putty and Oobleck, both of which demonstrate proprieties of both solid and liquids, as a concrete model for Earth's Asthenosphere.
Seismology Introduction Activity Activity Grades 5 to 12 This activity has been designed as a way to access a learning groups prior knowledge of and experiences with seismology, while introducing the participants to one another.
Seismic Tomography Other All Audiences Introductory description of how seismic tomography is used to determine Earth structure. (3.5 MB PDF)
Prof. Larry Braile’s Links (external) Other All Audiences Wide range of earthquake related topics.
Past Images of the Week Other All Audiences Photos related to seismology.
Modeling Intraplate Earthquakes with Booby Trap Activity Grades 5 to 12 Intraplate earthquakes have long intrigued both students and educators. Classroom exploration of United State seismicity and hazards maps inevitably generates numerous questions from the learners regarding the New Madrid Seismic Zone (NMSZ). Unfortunately, many earth science teachers are not prepared to exploit this interest by discussing the ongoing debate regarding the seismic hazard in the region. Instead, they are likely to respond to such questions by stating only that these issues are not well understood. Such a response is likely the result of two factors; 1) many teachers lack adequate knowledge of the current understanding of intraplate seismic zones and 2) teachers lack adequate instruction tools to convey such content to students. To empower teachers, this article summarizes ideas about the mechanisms of intraplate seismic zones and maps this to a physical model useful for exploring this phenomena and the debate surrounding it.
Modeling Elastic Rebound: The Earthquake Machine Lite Activity Grades 5 to 12 In this activity students explore a mechanical model of a fault to teach how energy is stored elastically in rocks and released suddenly as an earthquake.
Making Models from Data: A (very) Basic Overview of Parameter Estimation and Inverse Theory Activity Undergraduate A (one might say the) fundamental problem in science is finding a mathematical representation, hopefully with predictive or insight benefits, that describes a physical phenomenon of interest. In seismology, one such classic problem is determining the seismic velocity structure of the Earth from travel time or other measurements made on seismograms (seismic tomography). The document below provides notes and an associated exercise to be completed in Matlab.
Locating an earthquake with recent seismic data Activity Grades 5 to 12 To understand Plate Tectonic processes on the Earth, and to better understand where future earthquakes are likely to occur, it is important to know how to locate earthquakes as they occur. In this activity students use recent, three-component seismic data to locate a global earthquake.
Introduction to Spectral Analysis and Matlab Activity Undergraduate The objective of this lab is to explore the relationship between the time domain and the frequency domain using MATLAB. You will first look at pure sine waves as a function of time and their representation in the frequency domain, and then examine some earthquake data.
Introduction to Marine Seismic Processing Activity Undergraduate This presentation and associated activity introduces students to both the concepts of processing marine seismic data as well a providing an introduction to PROMAX software.
How Shallow Earth Structure Is Determined Activity Grades 5 to 12 Like other waves, seismic waves obey the laws of physics. This activity is intended to provide students with a real-world application for the concepts of waves. It should follow an activity, such as the traditional light lab used in physics courses to to explains concepts such as reflection, refraction and transmission of energy.
How are magnitude and intensity different (yet related)? Activity Grades 5 to 12 In this activity, students explore the relationship between an earthquake's magnitude and intensity. Students calculate the energy released during a weight drop (magnitude) and use an accelerometer (iPhone, QCN, or other) to investigate what happens to this energy as the source is moved further and further from the sensor (intensity). Students next examine USGS ShakeMaps to explore other factors besides and event size and the distance form the source to the receiver that can effect the intensity (e.g. geologic structures etc).
How “hard” does the ground shake during an earthquake? Activity All Audiences In this activity, students will use a three-component accelerometer (iPhone, laptop or USB) to examine their assumptions about how 'hard" the ground shakes during an earthquake.
GMT Tutorial Activity Undergraduate GMT is an open source collection of ~65 tools for manipulating geographic and Cartesian data sets (including filtering, trend fitting, gridding, projecting, etc.) and producing Encapsulated PostScript File (EPS) illustrations ranging from simple x-y plots via contour maps to artificially illuminated surfaces and 3-D perspective views; the GMT supplements add another ~70 more specialized tools. GMT supports over 30 map projections and transformations and comes with support data such as GSHHS coastlines, rivers, and political boundaries. This tutorial guides you through using GMT to make a simple location map. The locations come from a simple seismic experiment deployed near the PASSCAL Instrument center during the IRIS Internship Orientation. A final script is included with generous comments.
Global Seismographic Network Poster All Audiences The Global Seismographic Network (GSN) consists of more than 125 GSN stations located around the world with near-uniform spacing - from the South Pole to Siberia, and from the Amazon Basin to the seafloor of the Northeast Pacific Ocean. This multi-use facility provides data for scientific research, education, earthquake hazard mitigation, tsunami warning, and the international monitoring system for the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty. In addition, real-time GSN data are broadcast to museum displays that are seen by over 10 million visitors each year.
geoPHYSICS Activity Presentation Grades 5 to 12 These geoPHYSICS resources are designed to provide an avenue to help physics teachers connect and apply the principles of physics to the Earth. Recognizing the limited time for adding new topics to the physics curriculum, the approach taken with these resources is to integrate geophysics topics and applications into the existing physics curriculum without requiring that teachers spend extra time on concepts. For example, why can't a student learn how the magnitude of an earthquake is calculated while demonstrating their basic knowledge of waves? or why do Newton's Laws have to be endlessly applied to car's or boats rather than tectonic plates or seismographs. Thus, by applying the Conceptual Physics approach used by Paul G. Hewitt these resources seek to make connections between the concepts of physics and the Earth and its study.
Fault Motion Animations Animation All Audiences These animations are very elementary examples of fault motion intended for simple demonstrations. For more about faults see the NOAA slide show and information page - a rich source of images and textual information.
Exploring three-component seismic data with accelerometers Activity All Audiences In this activity, students will use an accelerometer (iPhone, laptop or USB) to kinesthetically explore the physical "meaning" of three component seismic data by replicating a seismogram by moving the accelerometer.
Exploring the Earth Using Seismology Poster All Audiences Earthquakes create seismic waves that travel through the Earth. By analyzing these seismic waves, seismologists can explore the Earth's deep interior.
Exploring Rates of Earthquake Occurrence Activity Grades 5 to 12 The activity allows the students to select their own region of interest and to interrogate the earthquake catalog to obtain quantitative data on the rate of occurrence of earthquakes of various magnitudes within their chosen region.
Exploring Plate Boundaries with Seismic Data Activity Grades 5 to 12 In this exercise, students will learn about the various types of plate boundaries, investigate well-known examples of some of these boundaries, and then apply what you've learned to East Africa to determine the most likely cause of seismicity in this area of the world.
Educational Links Other All Audiences Links to other resources for teaching seismology.
EarthScope and Arizona Video (external) Video All Audiences A short video about EarthScope produced by an Arizona PBS station.
Earthquakes… like ripples on water? (teacher) Activity Poster Grades 5 to 12 This poster (shown below) features a visualization of ground motion resulting from the February 21, 2008 M 6.0 earthquake that occurred near Wells, NV combines with the image of a faucet to illustrate the classic Earth science functional analogy; "Seismic waves radiate outward from an earthquake's epicenter like ripples on water". For students, this discrepant image maps the unfamiliar concept of the spreading out of seismic wave (the target) to a similar but more familiar scenario of ripples on water radiating outwards in all directions after a droplet or pebble falls onto it (the analog). Not only is this visually discrepant, it also makes the material approachable by using ideas students are likely to have experienced. When presented at the beginning of seismic waves instruction, this visual analogy is the a catalyst for student-generated questions, inquiry, and learning.
Earthmodes Animation All Audiences Animations showing the earth's vibrations after a large earthquake.
Developing arguments about earthquakes: Earthquake Machine Lite Activity 2 Activity Grades 5 to 12 In this activity students use a mechanical fault model to collect empirical data, develop logical arguments about earthquake re-occurrence, and skeptical review other groups arguments.
Determining and Measuring Earth’s Layered Interior Activity All Audiences In this lesson, students examine seismic evidence to determine a) Earth must have a layered internal structure and, b) estimate the size of Earth’s core. Using an inquiry approach, students are divided into two teams (theoreticians and seismologists) to test the simplest hypothesis for what is inside of Earth; the Earth is homogeneous throughout. Theoreticians use a scale model of a homogeneous Earth combined with an average seismic wave velocity to make predictions about when seismic waves should arrive at various points around Earth (predicted). Meanwhile, seismologists interpret seismic data from a recent earthquake to determine when seismic waves actually arrive at various points around Earth (observations). After comparing and discussing the fit of the predicted and observed data, students then use a second scale model to further interpret these results and ultimately measure Earth's outer core based on their data.
Describing a recent seismic event for news reports - SICHUAN EARTHQUAKE May 12, 2008 Activity Undergraduate This pdf file contains all the necessary information required for students to make an assessment of a recent earthquake and prepare to discuss the event with the news media.
Bringing Seismology’s Grand Challenges to the Undergraduate Classroom Activity Undergraduate Six inquiry-based, data-rich classroom modules designed to showcase modern seismological research, while covering topics commonly included in 100 and 200 level undergraduate courses. This collection of modules has been developed based on the “Seismological Grand Challenges in Understanding Earth’s Dynamic Systems”, a community-written long-range science plan for the next decade.
BOSS Lite - Building Resonance Demonstration All Audiences Describe the impact of building resonance when assessing Earthquake Hazards
A Century of Earthquakes Poster All Audiences On April 18, 1906 a powerful earthquake shook San Francisco leading to fires that devastated the city. That earthquake brought seismology into the forefront as a science in the U.S. This poster outlines the lessons learned from the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and discusses 100 years of large earthquakes, including the Sumatra earthquake that caused the devastating tsunami.
2011 Seismology Special Issue: The Earth Scientist Other Grades 5 to 12 The Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology (IRIS) Consortium has partnered with NESTA to produce this special, seismology focused issue The Earth Scientist. The theme for this issue is Modernizing Your Seismology Education. In this issue, you will find a collection of five invited articles that showcase the complexity and wealth of new teaching opportunities that exist within seismology education. This issue features a two article sequence introducing the geological phenomena of Episodic Tremor and Slip, one of the greatest seismological discoveries in the past decade, and describes how this phenomenon can be conveyed to students using models and kinesthetic learning. Another article explores how the USArray, a currently deployed dense network of seismometers, and resulting data can be leveraged to generate new visualizations to enhance the conceptualization of seismic waves in the classroom. The fourth article explores the ever-growing literature base of students’ alternative conceptions of geoscience topics and suggests strategies to use this to inform your curriculum, instruction and assessment. The final article introduces both new science on intraplate seismic zones and a physical model that can be used to explore this information with students.
2005 Seismology Special Issue: The Earth Scientist Other Grades 5 to 12 In the Spring of 2005, the IRIS Consortium's E&O program guest edited a special seismology themed issue of The Earth Scientist. The issue contained a number of original articles regarding seismological topics, the teaching of seismology in the classroom, as well as a special pullout poster showing a record section for the 2004 Sumatra Earthquake. The Earth Scientist is the journal of the National Earth Science Teachers Association.