## Earthquake Machine 1—Defining an Earthquake

In this activity, students work collaboratively in small groups to investigate the earthquake cycle using a mechanical model. Students' attention is captured through several short video clips illustrating the awe-inspiring power of ground shaking resulting from earthquakes. To make students' prior knowledge explicit and activate their thinking about the topic of earthquakes, each student develops a definition for an earthquake. Next, small groups of students combine their individual definitions through a collaborative process to create a consensus definition for an earthquake. Using an open-inquiry approach, students then investigate the Earthquake Machine model and compare their group's definition of an earthquake to the behavior of the model. Through this inquiry process students are asked to map the construct of an earthquake to the elements of the mechanical model. A whole-class discussion explores how the model is both like and unlike the actual phenomena of an earthquake and also emphasizes the flow of energy through the the system.

#### Objectives:

Students will be able to:

• Summarize the earthquake process in a short paragraph
• Use the Earthquake Machine model to demonstrate the causes of earthquakes, noting the flow of energy through the system
• Illustrate the role of models in the process of science in a short description

Total Time: 50min
Level: Novice

33MB
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## Related Fact-Sheets

Many people associate earthquakes with destruction caused by falling buildings or by the creation of a tsunami. While earthquakes may be associated with destruction in the time frame of human activity, in the evolution of the Earth they signal the geological forces that build our mountains and create our oceans. This fact sheet provides an introduction to the causes of earthquakes.

Fact-Sheet Novice

## Related Animations

Animation of the single-block "Earthquake Machine", a mechanical model of the earthquake process using a wood block, sandpaper, and rubber bands. This model shows how "Forces, Faults, and Friction" interact as elastic energy is slowly stored when the rubber back stretches and then is rapidly released as the block jerks during an "earthquake".

Animation Novice

Animation shows the buildup of stress along the margin of two stuck plates that are trying to slide past one another. Stress and strain increase along the contact until the friction is overcome and rock breaks.

Animation Novice

Oblique view of a highly generalized animation of a subduction zone where an oceanic plate is subducting beneath a continental plate. (See sketch below for parts.) This scenario can happen repeatedly on a 100-500 year cycle. The process which produces a mega-thrust earthquake would generate a tsunami, not depicted here.

Animation Novice

## Related Videos

Video lecture about elastic rebound and brittle material in the crust using a yardstick as a mechanical analog. This demonstrates elasticity, brittle fracture, and why it is difficult to predict earthquakes.

Video Novice

This video shows how to build the "Earthquake Machine", a physical model that represents the “earthquake cycle”, the slow accumulation of elastic energy in rocks on or adjacent to a fault followed by rapid release of elastic energy during an earthquake.

Video Novice

## Related Lessons

In this activity students use a mechanical fault model to collect empirical data, develop logical arguments about earthquake re-occurrence, and skeptically review other groups arguments.

Lesson Novice

## Related Posters

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 a devastating tsunami.