Posts Tagged ‘earthquake’

Plate Tectonics and Earthquakes

Monday, February 10th, 2014

plate-tectonics-and-earthquakesThis article contains an affiliate link.

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.

1976 Earthquake in Guatemala (MK perspective)

Monday, May 17th, 2010


This was my experience of the 1976 earthquake in Guatemala:

I was sound asleep. Bang, bang, bang… The doors of the closet made a huge racket. And somebody was shaking my bed. I was only six at the time, and I yelled to my sister, “Stop it!!” Then I realized that she couldn’t possibly be shaking the closet doors and my bed at the same time – they were too far away from each other. I sat up.

My 2-year-old sister was yelling in the next room, “My bed is running!” Her crib had wheels, and the crib was actually moving across the floor. My dad ran into the nursery to get her, commanding my older sister and I to come downstairs immediately. We obeyed. I don’t remember being scared. I do remember being excited because it felt like we were on a ride at an amusement park. I had no idea thousands of people in that city were dying at that moment, crushed beneath their own houses.

When we got downstairs, I heard dishes crashing. The electricity was off. We lit candles. My dad and mom were talking. They told us to sit down in the living room. Our house was made out of bricks, and they felt that we would be safer staying in the house than going outside. Power lines were down, and we could get electrocuted.

We prayed. We waited.

It was the middle of the night, and we were not allowed to go to bed.

What goes through the mind of a child as she tries to make sense out of a strange situation? I was thinking that our house was built like the third little pig’s house. It was good to build houses out of bricks, because they were safe.

Eventually we must have gone to bed. The next day, as we were driving around Guatemala City, I was stunned to see houses leveled and rubble everywhere. Some houses were half standing, and to my six-year-old mind, they looked like life-sized doll houses. Someone needed to clean up. Everything was a mess.

For weeks after the earthquake (a 7.6 on the Richter scale), there would be aftershocks. Each time there was another aftershock, I would run down the stairs to look at the circular picture on the wall. It was swinging back and forth. I waited until it stopped swinging before going back upstairs. It became normal and routine.

Years later when I moved to California to go to university, I couldn’t understand why people were scared with small tremors that you could hardly feel. If rebuilt adobe houses didn’t fall down during aftershocks, the odds that a reinforced American building would fall during a small rumble were quite slim.

The 1976 earthquake in Guatemala was just one of the many stories I have about growing up as a missionary kid. To keep up with my MK posts, like my MK page on Facebook.