As we were recently reminded, even places in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed can experience earthquakes. On Tuesday, August 23rd at 1:51 PM, a 5.8 magnitude earthquake originated 3.7 miles below the earth’s surface 5 miles southwest of Mineral, Virginia. The geological survey has reported several aftershocks. The previously mentioned August 23rd earthquake occurred as reverse faulting on a north or northeast-striking plane within a previously recognized seismic zone, the “Central Virginia Seismic Zone.” The Central Virginia Seismic Zone has produced small and moderate earthquakes since at least the 18th century.
Why Should YOU Teach About Earthquakes?
When you talk about geology, natural disasters, or earth science in your classroom, you can feature earthquakes in your conversation. Comparing earthquakes on the East and West Coasts can also help you teach about plate tectonics, seismic waves, why some places experience more earthquakes then others, and about factors that can impact the strength and distance over which an earthquake can be felt.
Earthquakes in the central and eastern United States occur less frequent than they do in the west; however they are typically felt over a much broader region. California, which we frequently associate with earthquakes in the Unites States, sits on the San Andreas Fault at the edges of the Pacific and North American tectonic plates. Virginia and the East Coast are located near the center of the North American plate and, thus, experience a much lower rate of seismicity than California. Additionally, the earth’s crust on the East Coast is older, colder, and harder. This allows seismic waves to be carried farther and faster then they are along the West Coast shell, which is also broken up by more active faults. East of the Rockies, an earthquake can be felt over an area as much as ten times larger than a similar magnitude earthquake on the west coast.
How Can YOU Teach About Earthquakes?
The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) provides up-to-date information on recent earthquakes in the United States and around the world on their earthquakes website. You can also download the USGS Poster of the Virginia Earthquake of 23 August 2011 – Magnitude 5.8 to help teach students about this summer’s incident. Additional information on the 5.8 magnitude earthquake that occurred on August 23rd can be found HERE. There are also many lesson plans, activities, and online resources that can help you teach about earthquakes. Here are some resources to help you teach about earthquakes in your classroom:
- Virginia Has Its Faults, Too: A Lesson on Earthquakes in Virginia – In this lesson plan from the Virginia Geographic Alliance, students will learn to define an “earthquake,” describe the effects of an earthquake, read and analyze a map citing earthquake activity in the state of Virginia, and will create a project that reflects understanding of the terms associated with the study of earthquakes
- Earthquakes for Kids – USGS has developed this interactive website to help children learn abut earthquakes. This website includes the following features: latest quakes, today in earthquake history, become an earthquake scientist, ask a geologist, learning links and earthquake activities, science fair project ideas, cool earthquake facts, the science of earthquakes, puzzles & games, animations, earthquake pictures, and earthquake ABC’s.
- Earthquakes and Volcanoes Lesson Plan - As students learn to read maps, it is important that they learn how to compare maps that show different types of information. This lesson from National Geographic asks students to compare maps of plate tectonics with population density maps and to analyze what these maps imply about the relationship between population and seismic hazards.
- The Power of Fire Activity – In this National Geographic activity, your students will become natural-hazard mappers! They will learn about plate tectonics as they figure out where people face danger from earthquakes and volcanoes, and create a map showing where these natural hazards may occur.
- Constructing Earthquake-Proof Buildings Lesson PlanConstructing-Earthquake-Proof-Buildings – In this lesson, students will explore different materials, shapes, and design options that affect the durability of a building and will understand how to use models to perform controlled scientific experiments.
- The Three Little Pigs in Earthquake Land Lesson Plan – This lesson from National Geographic teaches students some of the basics of earthquakes and volcanoes. It also asks them to think about how people living in cities and suburbs must plan ahead by constructing sturdy buildings and preparing their homes and themselves for the possibility of a natural disaster. Students will therefore be introduced to some basic concepts of physical geography, as well as some of the ways in which the physical environment affects people’s lives.