Earthquake Projects for Middle School

Students can study building design as part of an earthquake project.

Earthquakes, such as the Haiti earthquake in 2010 and the San Francisco one in 1906, caused a lot of damage to buildings and killed many people. Earthquake projects in schools teach students about building design and the geological reasons for earthquakes. Students should learn about the major earthquakes of the past and assess whether governments and builders have learned any lessons.

1 Mapping Earthquakes

Students draw a map of the world and plot where the major earthquakes have taken place, drawing on research from books and the Internet. Students could use colored pins to show timing. For instance, recent earthquakes that took place in the last 50 years, could have a red pin. From this work students could identify the vulnerable areas of the world and study the common geological properties. This can lead to a discussion and study of tectonic plates.

2 Earthquake Legends

Students study the different world legends about earthquakes. For instance, in Assam one legend describes a race living deep inside the Earth who shake the ground periodically to discover if there is anyone on the surface. Students could leave their scientific knowledge aside and devise their own "legends" in the form of a piece of creative writing. Students could also illustrate their work with a drawing or painting on the legend theme.

3 Model Making

In groups, students could construct simple tall structures using wooden blocks. By banging the table underneath the model they could see if the structure holds together. They could then try to make the model again in a different way (smaller, wider) to see if this makes a difference. Once students have learned a little about the background of tectonic plates, they could build a model to replicate the motions of the plates.

4 Building Design

Students look at the building designs in earthquake-prone areas, such as Haiti, Istanbul and San Francisco. In groups, they could investigate the quality of the construction, assess the materials used and find out how prepared the region was for the earthquake. Each group includes a "politician," "geologist" and "construction manager," and could then make a presentation to the class on the lessons learned from the earthquake and how building design has improved as a result.

Based on the south coast of the U.K., Sally Nash has been writing since 1988. Her articles have appeared in everything from "Hairdressers Journal" to "Optician." She has also been published in national newspapers such as the "Financial Times." Nash holds a Master of Arts in creative writing from Manchester Metropolitan University.