Rock, Rattle and Roll - earthquake education goodies

With one of the largest earthquakes recorded in our state this past Sunday, I thought it would be appropriate to share some earthquake education activities, animations and other resources. This material generally addresses curriculum in 6th grade and Earth Environmental but check these out regardless. Take a look back at Will Blocher’s email from Sunday with links to the USGS earthquake website and others.


Teachable Moments - - Power point with great information specifically about the 5.1 earthquake near Sparta, N.C.  Some the information is pretty geeky but still lots to mine from it.  There is more information about IRIS resources below.   


Educational Resources and Information – 3 sections

  1. Awesome global earthquake animation
  2. NC Geological Survey earthquake workshop activities
  3. IRIS - lots of great resources, videos and more


  1. Earthquakes of the First 15 Years of the 21st Century -

Spectacular animation of global earthquakes that occurred from 2000 – 2015 (just under 4 minutes in length).   These are actual recorded earthquakes from around the globe shown on the date they occurred.  You probably won’t be able to keep yourself from watching it at least a couple of times!


Take a minute to read the description of the video before playing it because there a few different segments to it.  The description also mentions “earthquake hypocenters”.  A hypocenter is where the earthquake occurred  within the earth.  Whereas the epicenter is the spot on the earth’s surface above the hypocenter.  Earthquakes occur at different depths according to the geology and tectonics (how the plates are interacting with each other) of a specific area.


I have shown this to upper elementary students and higher, all were enthralled.  The animation works well with a plate tectonics map and discussion of where the plate boundaries occur.


Take note at the beginning of the video, before any earthquakes are shown, there are no plate boundaries drawn on the map.  After the first segment (3 min 12 second mark), take a look again and compare what you see to a map with plate boundaries drawn on it. Earthquake (size, depth, magnitude) help define plate boundaries.  Continue the video to see where magnitude 6.5 and larger earthquakes occur. Then continue to see where magnitude 8.0 and larger earthquakes occur.  Is there a specific type of plate boundary that correlates to larger earthquakes?


  1. NCGS earthquake workshop activities

There are a bunch of activities (from a variety of sources including IRIS) suitable for a variety of grade levels. Each broad topic has several downloadable activities.  The earthquake topics include Earthquakes and Tectonics; Waves and Measurements; Risks, Hazards and Preparedness.  Everything is a downloadable pdf so animations don’t work.


Here are some suggested activities:

  • Earthquakes and Tectonics
    • Pg. 1 Overview of fault types and plate boundaries
    • Pg. 25 Exploring the Rates of Occurrence
    • Pg. 26 Printable GeoBlox  - color and assemble paper fault models
  • Waves and Measurements
    • Pg. 1 Seismic waves - Slinky and human
    • Pg. 17 What’s Inside the Earth? Black Box activity
    • Pg. 49 Pasta Quake (great visual for magnitude and logarithmic scale)


  1. IRIS activities - - suggested activities below

(Go to Education tab - you will need to look for grade appropriate materials)


  • GIFS
    • Another take on the Building Resonance demonstration – 3 gifs, one each for a short, medium and tall “building”.
      • Alternative - You can also use 3 pieces of uncooked spaghetti with a lump of clay or raisin on the end of each spaghetti.  Insert the spaghetti ends into a hard cover book at different heights.  While holding the book, move the book horizontally slower and faster to see which spaghetti (buildings) move with which shaking motion (frequency).



Randy Bechtel

Interpretation and Education Specialist

North Carolina State Parks

Work Cell: (919) 632-2972

Office: (919) 707-9325

121 W Jones St. | Raleigh, NC 27603