Earthquake Projects for Kids

Written by tamara christine van hooser Google
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Earthquake Projects for Kids
Pressure builds along tectonic plate edges until the fault line slips, causing an earthquake. (Digital Vision./Digital Vision/Getty Images)

Natural disasters splash across the front page, and Hollywood action-adventure blockbusters focus on them to capture kids' imaginations with high drama. When the disaster story of the day is an earthquake, these ground-shaking temblors will surface as a popular school project. Earthquake projects for kids explore the causes and geological dynamics, measurement and how to stay safe when the ground starts shaking.


By measuring the primary and secondary seismic waves and plotting the travel time and distance from several measuring stations, you can pinpoint the epicentre of an earthquake. Ask a teacher, parent or friend to print out the seismograph for a particular earthquake from three or more measuring stations and write down the date, time, epicentre coordinates and magnitude without showing it to you. The Northern California Earthquake Data Center has many seismograph readings available online. Study the seismograph to locate the onset of the first, or primary, wave of tremors and the secondary wave, which will be larger than the first. Mark both waves on the seismograph and calculate the exact start time for each. Measure the difference between the two times to find the travel time. Print out the travel time graph from the Science Buddies website and copy the vertical scale onto the edge of another paper, marking the travel time point between the two waves. Slide this line segment along the space between the travel time lines for the primary and secondary waves until the endpoints touch both paths and fit exactly between the wave lines. From the point on the primary wave line, read straight down along the distance scale at the bottom to identify the distance from the observation station to the epicentre. Do the same for at least three different observation stations. Mark the locations of the stations on a map. Use the scale distance on the map to set a compass to the radius of the epicentre distance. Use the observation locations as the centre to draw a circle around each station corresponding to its distance from the epicentre. The epicentre will be located on or near the point where the circles most nearly cross one another.

Shake Table

Sandwich four to six rubber balls between two equal size boards. Wrap a couple of large rubber bands around the boards to hold the construct together. Build structures out of blocks, toothpicks, children's building sets, clay and so on. Try lining the top board with dirt, sand, rock or leaving it bare. Experiment with different foundations and building materials as you simulate an earthquake by pulling the top board to one side against the rubber bands. Let it go and watch what happens to the buildings and the foundation as it snaps back into place.

Earthquake Engineering Simulation

Punch two holes along the same edge of two cardboard rectangles. Tie a long loop of string through the holes in each rectangle. Lay the rectangles side by side with an inch or two between them but connect them with strips of tape across the empty space. Place the construct on a flat wide surface outside. Completely cover the cardboard with a few inches of dirt, leaving the strings hanging out. Simulate an earthquake by pulling on the strings to create a fault movement. Observe the effect the movement has on the dirt

Make a Seismograph

Cut the flaps off of a cardboard box and lay it on its side with the opening facing you. Cut a slit along the centre lower edge of the right and left walls. Run a long strip of paper through the slits so it covers the bottom of the box and slides easily. Poke two holes in the top of the box and two opposite one another just below the rim of a plastic cup. Loop a string through all the holes and tie it off so the cup hangs about 1 to 2 inches from the bottom of the box. Poke a hole in the bottom of the cup and insert a pencil or marker so that it just touches the paper. Fill the cup with beans, gravel or sand to weight the cup and support the pencil or marker. Ask a partner to shake the box as you slowly and evenly pull the paper strip through your seismometer. The writing implement should leave a trace of the vibrations caused by the shaking, and this is what scientists call a seismograph.

Earthquake Safety

Research emergency preparedness and safety tips for earthquakes. Create a poster, slideshow, brochure or pamphlet that educates others on how to keep themselves safe in case of earthquake.

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