One of my favorite activities to simulate with students when discussing the slow and fast changes of the earth is this earthquake simulation. I just love how it illustrates the effects of earthquakes!
If you’re looking for other great activities to illustrate earthquakes other than this earthquake simulation, check out my blog post where students play with graham crackers and frosting to demonstrate plate movement called Do You Fault on Teaching Earthquakes? or in my Earthquake Experiments post, students pull on two different pieces of cloth to represent fault lines and sees the effect on a local town.
In this activity, I use small rectangle Styrofoam to represent buildings sitting on two different types of soil – one being soil and another being sand. This creates a discussion among the students as to which foundation is the best in earthquake regions.
After we hypothesize, we then shake both pans equally. Students typically find that the soil is definitely better than the sand. I use that as a stepping stone to discuss the magnitude and intensity of earthquakes. If students shake “lightly” then both foundations are likely okay. If both students shake extremely hard, (such as a 9 or 10 on the Richter’s Scale) the foundation won’t matter. I like to follow up on this activity asking why people choose to build their houses along beaches.
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