How to Help Students Understand and Prepare for Earthquakes

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25 years after the Loma Prieta earthquake, educators are using hands-on activities to shake up lessons. RAFT, Resource Area For Teaching, is introducing activities that use common, low-cost materials, so that anyone can help students understand the reason earthquakes happen, simulate their effects, and even test structures' resistance to intense shaking.

Students use a shake table to simulate earthquake effects.

Students use a shake table to simulate earthquake effects.

These activities use common, low-cost materials to help students understand the reason earthquakes happen, simulate their effects, and even test structures’ resistance to intense shaking.

RAFT, Resource Area For Teaching, is a nonprofit organization located near the epicenter of the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, an event that most adults from the area remember vividly, but that today’s students have only heard about. Given the recent South Napa earthquake and the 25th anniversary of Loma Prieta, many organizations and educators are dedicating more time to educate students about faults, safety procedures, and ways to prevent earthquake damage.

RAFT, an expert in hands-on education, created free instructional guides for any educator to prepare an engaging activity to bring earthquake education to life. To understand the causes of earthquakes, students can use foam to model the three main types of faults. To simulate earthquake effects, students can build a shake table using binder covers, rubber bands, balls, and bottle caps or go more advanced with a motorized version. A new activity, Brace Yourself, allows students to practice structural engineering through a variety of bracing techniques. These activities use common, low-cost materials to help students understand the reason earthquakes happen, simulate their effects, and even test structures’ resistance to intense shaking.

The RAFT Shake Table activity will be used at San Jose Public Libraries as part of a larger partnership with The Tech Museum’s Tech Challenge. This year’s challenge, Seismic Engineering in Action, empowers students in grades 4-12 to apply knowledge to generate practical engineering solutions to address the dangers of earthquakes. Community members will be able to experiment with the preassembled kits to simulate an earthquake and test out different structures in preparation for the April 2015 challenge.

Participating San Jose Public Libraries:
Alum Rock
Bascom
Berryessa
Calabazas
Dr. Martin Luther King
Educational Park
Evergreen
Hillview
Seven Trees
Tully Community

About Resource Area For Teaching
RAFT believes the best way to spark the love of learning for the next generation of thinkers, innovators, problem-solvers and creators is through hands-on learning. A nonprofit organization since 1994, RAFT serves 12,000 educators each year who teach over 900,000 students. Find out more about RAFT and how to get involved at http://www.raft.net.

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Michelle Berg
@RAFTBayArea
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