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The Earth Moves Under Our Feet: Students Learn About Seismic Activity through Project Based Learning

Friday, 14 December, 2018 - 12:19 pm

Hebrew Academy Middle School Students have been conducting an in-depth, interdisciplinary research project about earthquakes. Their research has included discovering the causes of and patterns of seismic activity. They have also learned the differences between the tectonic activity associated with volcanoes and those associated with earthquakes.

The students use the knowledge they have gained through their studies to design a structure and identify what could help their structure stay standing. Students will be presenting their research findings and their structures with a presentation on Dec 13.

Students are also creating a creative visual component to supplement their final reports.  Some students will be using a news segment, a short documentary, or article about their research findings. While others have created children’s books to help illustrate what they have learned.

As part of the program, the middle school students visited the Seismological Laboratory at CalTech.  Students had the opportunity to see a working lab and tour the campus. During their visit to the CalTech Lab, students heard from a field expert about how they measure and analyze earthquake data. Students monitored live-time seismic activity and were able to make their own “earthquake” and record their data using a digital seismometer. Students also saw the media room where Caltech and the United States Geological Survey (USGS) respond to seismic activity during press conferences.

Students learned how seismic waves move across California and observed possible damage that could occur from future earthquakes. Students were able to see the Earthquake Early Warning project that Caltech, the USGS, and the California Integrated Seismic Network have been working on. This program seeks to alert communities of earthquakes that are occurring so that they may move into the safest possible position. With this information, students learned how to respond to an Earthquake Early Warning Report and the appropriate safety measures to take.

This project has spanned weeks and is one of many project-based learning opportunities Hebrew Academy students have. During these assignments, students learn together, reach conclusions, discuss findings, generate reports, decide how to display and results, and create a presentation based on their work.

Project Based Learning has been shown to be one of the most effective strategies for teaching Middle School students, because it engages students in ongoing research projects that are relevant to their lives, creative, and gives them the opportunity to express their learning in a variety of ways. These learning opportunities increase student engagement, foster team building skills and critical thinking, and helps prepare students for real-world situations.



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