Plate Tectonics and Earthquakes

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When my kids studied plate tectonics and earthquakes, we did some super fun hands-on activities. We are continuing our study of Earth and Space by Bright Ideas Press, and the highlight of this unit was to shake a Lego city to see what would happen during an earthquake. My kids kept setting up cities and shaking them down all week long.

tectonic-plates-2I’ve actually lived through many earthquakes. I grew up as a missionary kid in Guatemala, and I survived the 1976 earthquake, which was a 7.6 on the Richter scale. I remember the demolished city, where I could see inside the houses with knocked-down walls. It was kind of surreal. I tell you about it in the video. I also show you the hands-on activities we did for this unit:

The children looked up a list of cities where large earthquakes have happened, and we noticed that the majority are located around the “Ring of Fire.” This is the edge of the tectonic plates, where lots of volcanoes have formed. We colored a printable that showed where the tectonic plates are located, and another map where the Ring of Fire is located. The children noticed the similarities.


plate-tectonicsTo understand tectonic plates, one of the activities in the book is to boil an egg and crack the outside shell. In order to see the edges of the shell pieces better, you might want to color the egg like an Easter egg, with food coloring. Use 1 cup of boiling water, 2 teaspoons of vinegar, and several drops of food coloring. The longer you leave the egg in the dye, the brighter the “tectonic plates” will be. Make sure you crack the shell before you dye the egg, so that the edges of the shell are darker.

We had fun studying plate tectonics and earthquakes. After the kids were in bed, my husband and I reminisced about how much we missed earthquakes back when we lived in California. Isn’t that funny?

Bright Ideas Press compensated me for blogging about science through using the book Earth and Space.

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12 Responses to “Plate Tectonics and Earthquakes”

  1. Misty Spears says:

    This is a great way to view earthquakes and some awesome activities for the kids. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Lisa Mallis says:

    Great hands on resources! As a former high school teacher – I know my students really enjoyed (and learned more!) when they could manipulate pieces and parts. Bravo!

  3. Robin Guertin says:

    I just love your creative ways to teach, thank you for sharing!

    • Susan says:

      You’re welcome! It’s interesting that there was an earthquake near us in WA recently, and we also were near a huge earthquake in Guatemala a couple of weeks ago!

  4. Melissa says:

    I love that you guys looked up where the major earthquakes have been to help them better understand the correlation to why they happen.

  5. Julie says:

    The study of earthquakes is interesting and these activities look great! My boys would love the Lego buildings and earthquake activity. I don’t think I’d ever enjoy being in an earthquake though!

  6. rika says:

    Hi Susan,
    I enjoyed your video and your personal experiences. I never thought of using a boiled egg for imitating tectonic plates.

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