Middle school

Scaling, earthquakes, engineering

Some areas of the world are more susceptible to earthquakes than others.  How can cities in hotspots change their building designs to better withstand an earthquake? Exploring Earthquakes is adapted from Teach Engineering’s Testing Model Structures to engage students in the essential duties of careful observation and design within the civil engineering field. Students will learn the impacts of natural disasters, such as quakes, on planets in our solar system and the moon. Students will use problem-solving skills to design and build model structures that may minimize the destructive impact of actual building structures on Earth.

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Learning Objectives

Students will know

  • Earth’s environmental conditions.
  • Earthquakes as natural disasters.

Students will understand

  • The importance of learning about earthquakes as an engineer.
  • Differing magnitudes of earthquakes and their impact on Earth.
  • How Earthquakes, Moonquakes, and Marsquakes are similar and different.

Students will be able to

  • Describe the earthquake magnitude scale.
  • Identify factors that can make buildings “earthquake-proof”.
  • Create earthquake simulations and model an “earthquake-proof” design using easily accessible materials.
  • Imagine, build, and improve on a design based on criteria, constraints, and collected data from the experiment
Standards Alignments + Connections

Next Generation Science Standards Connections

MS-ESS1-1: Develop and use a model of the Earth-sun-moon system to describe the cyclic patterns of lunar phases, eclipses of the sun and moon, and seasons.

MS-ESS3-2: Analyze and interpret data on natural hazards to forecast future catastrophic events and inform the development of technologies to mitigate their effects

MS-ETS1-3: Analyze data from tests to determine similarities and differences among several design solutions to identify the best characteristics of each that can be combined into a new solution to better meet the criteria for success.

Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills Connections

6.10(D): describe how plate tectonics causes major geological events such as ocean basin formation, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and mountain building.

Louisiana Standards for Science Connections

8-MS-ESS3-2: Analyze and interpret data on natural hazards to forecast future catastrophic events and inform the development of technologies to mitigate their effects.

8-MS-ESS2-2:Construct an explanation based on evidence for how geoscience processes have changed Earth’s surface at varying time and spatial scales.

MS-ETS1B: A solution needs to be tested, to prove the validity of the design and then modified on the basis of the test results in order to improve it. There are systematic processes for evaluating solutions with respect to how well they meet the criteria and constraints of a problem. Sometimes parts of different solutions can be combined to create a solution that is better than any of its predecessors. Models of all kinds are important for testing solutions.

MS-ETS1C: Although one design may not perform the best across all tests, identifying the characteristics of the design that performed the best in each test can provide useful information for the redesign process-that is, some of the characteristics may be incorporated into the new design.

ETS.MS.1C.a: Although one design may not perform the best across all tests, identifying the characteristics of the design that performed the best in each test can provide useful information for the redesign process-that is, some of the characteristics may be incorporated into the new design.

UNIT PLAN

Pre Laboratory Engagement

Pre-Laboratory Engagement (45-60 minutes) 

  1. OPTIONAL: Students should read an article about earthquakes.
  2. Students should watch an introductory video on earthquakes and answer questions.
  3. Students should watch a demo video of the Spaghetti Quake Activity – Understanding earthquake magnitude
  4. Students perform the Spaghetti Quake Activity and answer questions on the worksheet.

Laboratory Exploration

Laboratory Activity (60-75 minutes)

  1. Students should watch the “Exploring Earthquakes” video (10:08).
  2. Students should perform the earthquake simulation experiment by doing the demonstration at home on their own by following the directions on the Lab Worksheet. Students should also record their observations In the Test/Collect Data section of the worksheet.
  3. After students complete the earthquake simulation experiment, students should explain a specific factor that was most important for their structures to perform successfully and brainstorm materials that may have helped them work most efficiently.  These answers are in the “Think it Out” and “Make a Guess” portions of the activity handout.

Post Laboratory Extension

Post-Laboratory Extension (60-75 minutes)

Spaghetti Quake is adapted from Exploratorium’s Pasta Quake.

Exploring Earthquakes is adapted from Teach Engineering’s Testing Model Structures.