IRIS Education and Outreach has collected and created materials to enhance earth science education both in K-12 and undergraduate classrooms. Below we present resources and curriculum that is specific to seismometers and earthquakes. Our more general instructional resources can be found on our main IRIS website.
The seismographs in schools program was built on the premise that an educational seismometer in the classroom promotes awareness of earthquake activity around the world and provides an opportunity to teach with real-time data and real-world examples. While nothing captures students attention quite like watching earthquake waves arrive from a distant earthquake during class, with recent advances in instrumentation and web tools, it is possible to enrich the classroom experience with a nearby seismic station.
The curriculum and resources that we present below focus on materials to teach both with and without a seismometer. This page will continue to grow as our network teachers work together and share effective techniques and unique lessons. Please use the form below if you have something to share.
Creating Awareness- What we hope every teacher is doing
Core Lessons with a Seismometer
Build your own Seismograph
Students will gain a greater appreciation of how a seismograph works, and a better understanding of recordings of ground motion that they see on seismograms.
In small groups of 3-4 students, students are asked to design and construct a seismograph using common household and craft materials provided. Students will demonstrate to the class how their seismographs record motion.
Download the activity (pdf)
Exploring what you record
Classroom Fault Model
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
Do your students locate earthquakes by picking P and S arrivals from old textbook seismograms? In this activity your students will use "real" 3-component seismic data from newsworthy earthquakes as part of the location exercise. Includes instructions for locating events on inflatable globes or using an online mapping site.
Core Lessons without a Seismometer
Describe the impact of building resonance when assessing Earthquake Hazards
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.
In this activity students explore a mechanical model of a fault to develop a definition of an earthquake.
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.
Lessons recommended by our Network
Earthquake Wave Visualizations
developed by Charles Ammon, Penn State University
AS-1 Extra Credit Ideas
developed by J Bob Cook (PCAZ)
Discovering Plate Boundaries, Rice University
recommended by Kate Baker (CDVI)
Classroom Seismic Activity
developed by Craig Messerman (SHMT)
recommended by Kay Wyatt, Oregon Shakes
Musical Plates: A Study of Earthquake and Plate Tectonics
recommended by Joshua Koen, Stevens University
USGS Earthquake Hazards Learning Link
recommended by Lisa Wald, USGS
Animations showing the earth's vibrations after a large earthquake.
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.
A beginners guide to the Unix and Linux operating system. Eight simple tutorials which cover the basics of UNIX / Linux commands. http://www.ee.surrey.ac.uk/Teaching/Unix/
This tutorial guides users through obtaining data for a recent earthquake and how to conduct some simple analysis of broadband data.
In this activity, students will use SeisMac to kinesthetically explore the "meaning" of three component seismic data.
In this activity, students will use SeisMac, or another three component accelerometer to examine their assumptions about how 'hard" the ground shakes during an earthquake.
This tutorial guides users through GMT to create a simple map of the Socorro, NM area.
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.