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Earth Science Education Activities (For links to additional descriptions of these files, go to the bottom of this page.  The Quick Links below will generally open a web page [.htm file].  For most activity documents, MS Word and Adobe pdf files also exist and may be useful for modifications, extracting images, or more convenient printing.  These files can be accessed from each original URL by replacing the .htm by .doc or .pdf):


Quick Links:


Earth Structure:

        Earth’s Interior Structure – The “pie slice” model of the Earth’s interior – a

classic Earth structure exercise that uses the concept of scale

            3-D Earth Structure – Three-D clay model of Earth’s interior and volumes of

layers – the relative volumes of the layers will likely surprise you!

            Journey to the Center of the Earth – Explore Earth’s interior properties and

                        conditions with a virtual journey to the center of the Earth; connects to Jules

                        Verne’s book, includes tables, diagrams, “travel brochure”, photos and sample

                        narrative – a very fun activity that also enhances understanding of the concept

                        of scale!

            Earth’s Interior – Travel Times – Analyze travel times to infer seismic velocity of


Seismic Waves:

        Seismic Waves and the Slinky – Study types of seismic waves and wave


            Slinky 4-page Lesson – Study types of seismic waves and wave propagation

            Wave Animations – View seismic waves animations; wave activities

            Four Wave Types PPT – View seismic wave animations on a timed, continuously

                        running PowerPoint presentation for “museum display” type application

            iSeismicWaves – An online “iPhone-like application” for viewing seismic wave

                        animations and related information (from the Wave Animations activity, above)

                        on a computer or a smart phone such as the iPhone

            Walk-Run Activity – Simulate the S minus P EQ location method with walk/run

           Five Slinky Model of wave propagation to illustrate the earthquake location method

                      that seismologists use (not the S-minus-P method); PPT only

            Surface Wave Propagation Around the Earth – Analyze surface wave travel times

                        and propagation around the globe

            Understanding Vibroseis – Digital signal processing and the vibroseis method –

                        explanation and illustrations of the concepts and theoretical background

            Vibroseis PPTVibroseis animation and videos (ppt only, see Understanding

                        Vibroseis file [above] for information on downloading videos necessary for the


Educational Seismographs:

            Educational Seismograph – Build an educational seismograph with geophone                              sensor

            Handheld Seismometer – Simple model for demonstrating how a seismograph


            The AS-1 Seismograph – Installation – Instructions for installation of the AS-1

            The AS-1 Seismograph – Operation – Instructions for operation of the AS-1

            The AS-1 Seismograph – Magnitude – Calibration and magnitude calculation with

                        the AS-1

            The AS-1 Magnitude Calculator – Online tool for AS-1 magnitude calculation

            AS-1 Teaching Modules – Descriptions and links to several activities in this list

Using AmaSeis – Tutorial for using the AmaSeis software

Calculating Magnitude – Gain experience with seismograms and calculating                                 magnitudes of earthquakes

AS-1 Seismograph Results – Examples of AS-1 EQ catalog, magnitudes, S-P      


EQ Location and Magnitude – Understand the S minus P earthquake location

                        method and the determination of magnitudes for earthquakes (AS-1


How Often – An example analysis of how often earthquakes occur

Interpreting Seismograms – A tutorial on interpreting seismograms

Fun with Filtering – Examples of filtering seismograms to enhance specific                                     signals – aftershocks, surface waves, PKPPKP core phase – includes                                 suggestions for additional seismogram analysis and interpretation ideas and                         links to SAC file seismograms to download

S-Waves - Identifying the S arrival on AS-1 seismograms and estimating distance

            using the S minus P method

WLIN Seismograph Display – View near real time 24-hour WLIN AS-1 record (link


            IRIS Seismographs in Schools – IRIS Seismographs in Schools web site (link only)

WLIN AS-1 Seismograph Data – AS-1 data for the WLIN (West Lafayette, Indiana)

                        seismograph station for use with AmaSeis on any Windows computer (even if                         you are collecting data from your own seismograph using AmaSeis).  Data from                         2003 to 2010 are available.  See Number 13 in list.

EqList – Earthquake catalog for the WLIN AS-1 seismograph station (Excel file)

Earthquake Activity:

          San Francisco Bay Area Earthquakes  Exploring earthquake activity in the San

                        Francisco Bay area

            San Francisco Bay Area Earthquakes (New) – Exploring earthquake activity in the

                        San Francisco Bay area (revised and updated version)

            Plotting Earthquake Epicenters – Classroom activities for plotting earthquake

                        locations on maps

            Accessing Earthquake Data – A guide to accessing earthquake data on the Internet

            Southern California Earthquakes – Earthquakes in the Southern California area (ppt


            Midwest Earthquakes – Information about Midwestern U.S. earthquakes and the

                        New Madrid seismic zone

March-May 2010 Earthquakes – March-May 2010 worldwide earthquakes, number of

                        M5+ earthquakes amd maximum magnitude per day and earthquake statistics

                        (pdf only)

            Seismic Monitor – Link to the IRIS Seismic Monitor to view current earthquake

                        activity – and attractive and interesting page with ability to zoom in to regional

                        views and link to other earthquake information and resources (link only)

            USGS Earthquake Website – Link to the primary U.S. Geological Survey

                        earthquakes web page for current information and links to additional

                        earthquake information and resources (link only)

The Seismic/Eruption Software:

        Seismic/Eruption Modules – Tutorial for use of the Seismic/Eruption program to

                        study worldwide, regional or local earthquake activity; several modules

            Haiti (in preparation)

            Chile – Using the Seismic/Eruption program to explore the earthquake activity in Chile

                        including the M8.8 February 27, 2010 Chile earthquake and its aftershocks

Earthquake Hazards:

            Earthquake Shaking – Building Contest – Use a simple shale table to experiment

                        with the response of model buildings to earthquake vibrations – a fun and

                        exciting learning activity!

            Tsunami (PPT only) – Instructions and videos of wave tank tsunami activity

            Tsunami Files – Animations and videos for Tsunami PowerPoint (above)

            EQ Hazard Info-Part 1 – Collected earthquake hazards information and illustrations

EQ Hazard Info-Part 2 – Collected earthquake hazards information and illustrations

EQ Photos-Part 1 – Collected earthquake hazards and damage photos

EQ Photos-Part 2 – Collected earthquake hazards and damage photos

Plate Tectonics:

          Plate Puzzle – A fun and educational activity for exploring the Earth’s tectonic plates

Plate Tectonics Flip Book – See plate tectonic motions through time with flip books

Plate Tectonics/Foam Models – Understanding plate boundaries, motions and                              faults

Thermal Convection – Use a simple model to view thermal convection

PowerPoint Presentations:

        2010 SSA Presentation – A Decade of Earthquake Monitoring with an Educational

Seismograph (ppt only)

What is Moment Magnitude? – A brief tutorial on moment magnitude (ppt only)


        Digital Analysis of Geophysical Signals and Waves – Online tutorial on digital signals,

                        digital signal processing, and waves; filtering, convolution, Fourier analysis,                         examples of processing with real data

            EqLocate Tutorial – Tutorial for the EqLocate program for determining the location

                        and origin time of an earthquake from downloaded seismograms; sample data

                        are included; the fast iterative, trial and error method is similar to the computer

                        program optimization technique that is routinely used by the USGS and

                        seismologists to locate earthquakes

Using Earthquake Videos – Suggestions and examples for effectively using videos                         for teaching about earthquakes

            Seismology – Resources for Teachers – A list of resources related to seismology

                        that are useful for educators (not updated recently, but the list is still useful)

            Every Pebble Tells a Story - Make inferences about the geological history of a

                        pebble by observing its characteristics and by utilizing geological principles and

                        concepts, the Every Pebble Tells a Story activity is an excellent follow-up to the

                        study of mineral and rock identification and also includes a creative writing




            Additional Materials – Additional materials for the Every Pebble Tells a Story activity

                        including rock and mineral identification flow charts and tables

            Science Education – Why Should We Care? – Originally written in the year 2000,

                        many of the concepts and resources are still valid today

K-6 education activities from Purdue SLED program (Science Learning through Engineering Design, an NSF-supported MSP project through Purdue’s Colleges of Education and Engineering):

1.  Jenny Daugherty, Larry Braile, Helen McNally, Kavita Ramane, and Keith Bowman, Rock Steady: Designing a Sensor (

Lesson plan designed for grade 6 on designing a sensor to detect vibrations and introducing seismic waves and seismometers.

2.  Larry Braile, Jenny Daugherty, Helen McNally, Inez Hua, Jenniffer Dickensheets, Pam Stamm, and Melissa Colonis, Plastic Water Bottle Design – What’s the Best Shape? ( This lesson plan, intended for grade 6, focuses on using mathematics to design the shape of a plastic water bottle to optimize the surface area to volume ratio and so reduce the amount of plastic used to make the bottles.

3.  Larry Braile, Jenny Daugherty, Helen McNally, Inez Hua, Jenniffer Dickensheets, Pam Stamm, and Melissa Colonis, Seasons and Shadows (

The Reasons for Seasons lesson, designed to meet 5th grade standards, addresses an important science concept involving the movements of the Earth around the Sun and the tilt of the Earth's rotational axis.

4.  Kendra Erk, John Lumkes, Larry Braile, Anne Brickler, and Anna Matthys, Light – Just Right! (

This 4th grade design activity focuses on electrical current and resistance. Students design a way to make a bulb light with differing brightnesses.

5.  Larry Braile, John Lumkes, Kendra Erk, Anne Brickler, Anna Matthys, Sound Absorption (

This grade 3 lesson plan focuses on a design task to create a wall to absorb sound.


For pdf files and brief descriptions of most of these documents, go to:







Graphic of wave propagation in a slinky.


Graphic of mantle convection in the Earth.



Graphic of a reverse fault.


   Portion of This Dynamic Planet map.


Photograph of students in front of Earth interior model.



Earth Science Education Demonstrations, Lessons and Activities


(If you know the activity that you are looking for, use the Quick Links above.)

Lesson plans for teaching about seismology and other Earth science topics.  Includes descriptions of demonstrations, experiments and activities for teachers and students.  The lessons are designed primarily for teachers of grades 5-12 but can be adapted to introductory college level Earth science teaching.  Lesson plans can be displayed on the screen or printed (in color) from a pdf version.  Topics include: Seismic Waves, Plate Tectonics, Mantle convection, Earth’s interior, Plate Boundaries, Seismometers, the AS-1 seismograph, earthquake magnitude, and earthquake location.  Also included is a pdf version of Seismology – Resources for Teachers and an “essay” on science education in the US.


Last modified January, 2017

ÓCopyright 2000-2017.  L. Braile.  Permission granted for reproduction for non-commercial uses.


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