Today's Lesson: Earthquakes and Plate Tectonics

I live in California, so when ever there is an earthquake I always think about "The Big One," Something that scientists seem to unanimously agree will happen here in my lifetime.  Since earthquakes cannot be prevented, the only thing we can do is to prepare and learn about them BEFORE they happen.  Here in California, every year they make a big deal out of "The Great Shakeout, " earthquake drills, at 10:16 a.m. on October 16, 2014 millions of people all over the state in schools and businesses practice earthquake safety and preparedness.   Well here at home, the minions actually practice emergency drills (earthquake, fire,etc)  at least four times a year, just so they can be better prepared in an emergency. 

Every time the earth moves it is a constant reminder that the San Andreas Fault is capable of a massive amount of damage, and that it is very, very nearby. So along with our emergency preparedness this year, I thought I'd teach them WHY the earth actually moves.

Games and Activities:
I found a lot of really cool games, and hand-on activities and experiments.
Make an earthquake block model:
Make a tectonic plate block model:
How the natural forces on earth change it's surface:
Build your own seismograph

See how your structures stand up to earthquakes-
Challenge your kids to each build a simple structure that they think will withstand an earthquake. Teenie and I used K'NEX Sonshine chose to use LEGOS and we each built a structure.  Print out an observation page (I use this one, because it's direct and to the point but older kids can use this one ), then have kids fill out the first part of the worksheet. Prepare gelatin as directed in a large rectangular pan (I used a 13x9 Pyrex dish).  When the kids are done with their structures, have them place them one at a time in the gelatin (they can not press them down in the gelatin unless they made their structure with an "underground" anchor) and give it a side to side or back and forth motion shake. You don't have to shake it hard.  Have them observe and record what happens. Then have them figure out how they can make their structures more stable. 

Structures, Teenie testing her 22" structure which fell straight over but did not break, Sonshine testing his structure 17" the whole top section fell off and exploded into a billion Lego pieces, also he had mini-figures inside so a few Hobbits and Storm Troopers didn't make it out of the rubble ...
NOTE:  When you build your structure make sure you use a material that will flex with movement and also having an anchor of some sort on the bottom of your structure will work. I gave my 36" tall structure "feet" that went into the gelatin and held it in place while it swayed back and forth.  The kids then accused me of being a "cheater" because I didn't tell them to do it too. We had just spent an hour talking about how buildings nowadays are safer because of retrofitting, and new building code laws.

Here are some interesting and informative videos about earthquakes:  This video can be frightening to younger viewers, rated TV-PG, but does show some intense scenes of bodies covered with tarps and injured people. I would recommend this video for kids 13 and older.  This one is better for younger kids.
Worksheets and Lapbook:
Find worksheets here  
Earthquake Lapbook from Homeschool Share.

Planet Earth/Inside Out by Gail Gibbons
DK Eyewitness Books: Volcano & Earthquake

For Discussion:
Show how the earth changes physically after an earthquake:
The history of plate tectonics: 
(companion activities can be found here)

Teenie and Sonshine demonstrating proper duck, cover and hold on technique during "The Great Shakeout."