Plate Tectonic - Earthquakes (1)
Post Lab 

  • Illustrating what happens on the Earth's surface during an earthquake.
  • Exploring what intensity of shaking means during an earthquake.
  • earthquake
  • moderate
  • shaking
  • strong
  • weak

Students use art to learn about shaking during an earthquakes

Damage in Armenia


The energy released during an earthquake causes the ground to shake. If you are close to the epicenter of a moderate quake, the shaking is more severe than if you were farther away. Scientists have developed many scales to measure the intensity of earthquakes. Two common ones are the Richter Scale and Modified Mercalli Scale. The Richter Scale measures the size of the waves produced by the earthquake, hence the energy it releases. The Richter Scale is absolute; seismologists will derive the same Richter magnitude wherever they measure the earthquake. The Modified Mercalli Scale describes what a person feels during an earthquake. This scale is relative; it changes depending on how far you are away from the epicenter.


  1. Read the book, Three Earthquake Dolls.  Discuss with students the energy produced during each earthquake.  The Tangshan earthquake in northeastern China was a 7.8 magnitude killed 240,000.  The Lisbon earthquake was a 9.0 magnitude and killed 100,000. This earthquake would have had the most energy released.   The New Madrid earthquake was a 8.0 and killed very few. 
  2. Have your students examine the worksheet of the shaking boy. Tell the students that the boy is experiencing an earthquake. Ask them if they think the earthquake is strong, moderate, or weak. Be sure to have them justify their answers. The earthquake probably is a strong one because the bird in the tree is startled by the shaking of the tree. In a very strong earthquake it will be difficult for people to stand up. However most earthquakes are small, so hopefully children will never have to experience such a quake.
  3. The boy is being shaken by an earthquake as he is walking through a forest. Ask the children if he is safe. When a person is in the open country with no telephone poles or overhead wiring, he/she is basically safe. The tree in this picture is too far away to harm the boy if it were to fall down. If the boy were at home, however, he should seek shelter under a strong structure like a heavy desk to protect himself from falling objects. If he were outside near his home, he should stay away from overhead wiring and not run inside. Some children have been taught to "duck and cover." However, during an earthquake they may attempt to do just that, move from outside to inside in order to "duck" and be "covered" by the table they practiced with. Emphasize with the students that they must think during an earthquake in order to make decisions that will keep them safe during the shaking.
  4. Some children think that the Earth opens up and swallows people during an earthquake, as it is often depicted on television. An earthquake, however, is caused by stress within the outermost layers of the Earth. Some cracks may appear on the ground after an earthquake, but they are small, and rarely if ever threaten people. The seismic waves traveling through buildings may create enough energy to destroy an building.

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