Instructional Resources

Resources in Realtime

IRIS/University of Portland Teachable Moments

USArrayTeachable Moments:  Powerpoint, pdf presentations, and animations summarizing the earthquake information, regional tectonics and other event-specific information available within hours of a major earthquake.

USGS CoreCast

USGS CoreCast brings you straight science insight on natural hazards including earthquakes through audio podcasts of information following a major earthquake.

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

Plotting Earthquake Epicenters
Use a wall map or classroom handouts to plot earthquake epicenters worldwide. Includes an introductory activity to teach plotting with latitude and longitude (overheads and student answer sheet included), where to get a wall map and dots to mark the earthquakes, and informational images on earthquake magnitudes and occurrence to put next to your map.

Teachable Moments
After a major earthquake, a suite of materials are created that summarize information about the earthquake. These can be used simply by posting the two or three page pdf on a bulletin board in the classroom or somewhere around the school, or the powerpoints and animations can be used to make either a short or long presentation about the earthquake and regional tectonics. The powerpoints are designed as a starting point, with content at all levels to expand or contract to meet your needs and the level of your students.


Core Lessons with a Seismometer

     Additional Resources

     Vertical Seismometer Animation
     Horizontal Seismometer Animation
     IRIS: How Does a Seismometer Work?
     IRIS: Como Trabaja un Sismógrafo?

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

Earthquake Tracking

Instrument Sensitivity

Locating Epicenters

Scale Model

Classroom Fault Model

Triangulating Earthquake Locations Online

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 

How Do We Know Where an Earthquake Originated?

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

BOSS Lite - Building Resonance

Describe the impact of building resonance when assessing Earthquake Hazards

Exploring Rates of Earthquake Occurence

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.

Redefining an Earthquake: EQ Machine Lite Activity 1

In this activity students explore a mechanical model of a fault to develop a definition of an earthquake. 

Developing arguments about earthquakes: Earthquake Machine Lite Activity 2

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.


Suggest an activity

Have you found a good lesson or developed a new activity? Please use this form below to share it with other teachers! Describe your activity and we will contact you.

Your Name: 



What is 2 + 2:

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)

Virtual Earthquake
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


Advanced Topics


Animations showing the earth's vibrations after a large earthquake.

Introduction to Spectral Analysis and Matlab

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.

UNIX Tutorial for Beginners

A beginners guide to the Unix and Linux operating system. Eight simple tutorials which cover the basics of UNIX / Linux commands. 

Simple Analysis of broadband data w/Matlab or Unix

This tutorial guides users through obtaining data for a recent earthquake and how to conduct some simple analysis of broadband data.

SeisMac Activity 1

In this activity, students will use SeisMac to kinesthetically explore the "meaning" of three component seismic data.

SeisMac Activity 2

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.

GMT Tutorial

This tutorial guides users through GMT to create a simple map of the Socorro, NM area.

Introduction to Marine Seismic Processing – ProMAX

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.