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This is an interactive Internet lesson in which students will explore earthquakes by reading eyewitness accounts and viewing animations of earthquake causes and forces. Students will also learn how to measure earthquakes and locate their centers by working with real seismograms. As part of an ongoing process, students will apply what they learn by monitoring daily seismic activity around the world for major earthquakes and by keeping a journal of their magnitude and epicenter location. This lesson utilizes reading, writing, and computational skills in an interdisciplinary format.

Subject Matter
Earth Science, Mathematics, Language Arts, Geography

High School

Curricular Uses
Scales, logarithms, amplitude, graphs, ratios, proportions, radius, compass, magnitude, intensity, plate tectonics, faults, seismic waves, seismograms, maps.

Learning Objectives
Students will be able to:

  • Describe the characteristics of an earthquake;
  • Understand the causes of an earthquake;
  • Describe the different seismic waves;
  • Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of the Richter and Mercalli scales;
  • Measure time and amplitude on a seismogram;
  • Calculate the magnitude of a local earthquake using a nomogram;
  • Calculate the epicenter distance of a local earthquake using a nomogram;
  • Calculate the magnitude of a global earthquake using a formula;
  • Calculate the epicenter distance of a global earthquake using a P and S wave travel-time graph;
  • Locate the epicenter of an earthquake by triangulating on a map.
(per student)
  1. 1 journal folder containing loose-leaf and pockets.
  2. 1 compass and metric ruler.
  3. 1 outline map (http://www.eduplace.com/ss/ssmaps) of the major continents plus California regions and the United States (a map of South America is needed for Lesson Five).
  4. 1 scientific calculator with logarithmic functions.
  5. 1 P and S wave travel-time graph (a standard reference table in most Earth Science textbooks).
  6. 1 map of stations (http://aslwww.cr.usgs.gov/Stations/station_info/mainmap.htm) operated by the USGS Albuquerque Seismological Laboratory.

(per class)
  1. Atlas (one or two per class of students).
  2. Computers with access to the World Wide Web (ideally, one per group of three students).
  3. Printers with graphic capability (inkjet or laser are best) and printer paper.

Computer Resources
You will need at least one multimedia computer workstation with Internet access. We recommend, as a minimum, using Macintosh II series running System 7.0 or higher, or a 386 IBM compatible PC running Windows 3.1 or higher. We also recommend a minimum modem speed of 14.4K bps, though 28.8K is preferable. The Internet plug-ins Shockwave and Flash should be added to your Internet browser to view certain applications. They are available on the Internet at Macromedia.com.

(For a description of each site, go to the Resources Section.)

Bookmark the following sites:

Earthquakes: Eyewitness Accounts

Earthquake Hazards

Before, During, and After

Earthquakes: The Richter Scale
http://www.zephryus.demon.co.uk/education/ geog/tectonics/richt.html

Savage Earth Online

Electronic Desktop Project: Virtual Earthquake

Live Internet Seismic Server

Make Your Own Seismogram!

PNSN Webicorder Display

The Java Helicorder
http://www.seismo.unr.edu/ftp/pub/ichinose/ JavaWorm/WormWavesApplet.html

USGS: Ask A Geologist

Build Your Own Seismograph

Students should have some familiarity with the Internet and how to utilize a Web browser.

Workshop: Constructivism as a Paradigm for Teaching and Learning
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