Earthquakes Introductory Lesson

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Plate Tectonics

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Greenpieces Webquest Introduction for Teachers


Where is all the Shaking?

Author: Mark Beard, Bruce Moon, and Bruce Ostertag


Science, Technology

Topic or Unit of Study: Earth Sciences

Grade/Level: 6-12

Objective: Students will be able to plot major earthquakes of the United States according to their locations and identify patterns in the locations of these earthquakes in regards to plate tectonics.

This lesson will give the students an opportunity to use technology and learn about the seismic activity in this area. They will also use skills in mapping locations based on their latitude and longitude.


Learning Context: This activity will be a pre-teaching activity for a webquest and larger unit on plate tectonics.


1. Students will take a vote to name the state that has had largest measured earthquake, record their guesses.

2. Students will then be given outline maps of the United States.

3. Students will then be given the address for a web site that will help them determine which state has had the largest earthquake.

4. On a separate piece of paper students will need to write down the locations of the earthquakes.

5. Students will then need to input these locations at the latitude and longitude site to find the exact location of these cities.

6. They will denote the earthquakes on their maps with the letter "E".

Collaboration: Students will work individually.

Time Allotment: 1 class period. 55 Min. per class.

Author's Comments & Reflections:
This activity needs to be implemented as part of an larger unit on plate tectonics. This is a great activity to reintroduce the plotting of latitude and longitude locations, as well as familiarizing students with the seismic activity in their own state.

1. USGS web site --Maps of the world and U.S.
2. FEMA web site - Gives locations of the largest earthquakes in the United States.
3. Geographical Locations-This site will assist students in locating the exact longitude and latitude of United States cities.

Resources: The number of computers required is 1 per student.
Students Familiarity with Software Tool:
Students need the ability to navigate the internet.

Standards: CA- California K-12 Academic Content Standards

Subject : Science

Grade : Grade 6 and grades 9-12

Area :
Focus on Earth Science

Standard :
Plate Tectonics and Earth’s Structure (introductory for high school students)

Concept 1:
Plate tectonics accounts for important features of Earth’s surface and major geologic events. As a basis for understanding this concept:

Benchmark or Example a: Students know evidence of plate tectonics is derived from the fit of the continents; the location of earthquakes, volcanoes, and midocean ridges; and the distribution of fossils, rock types, and ancient climatic zones.

Assessment Plan: Students will be assessed on their ability to correctly plot the locations of the earthquakes on their maps.


For questions, comments, and corrections, e-mail Bruce.