Plate Tectonic - Earthquakes (3)
Post Lab 

  • Learning that pressure inside the Earth causes earthquakes.
  • Exploring how a myth can be composed of some truths
  • earthquakes
  • pressure
  • worksheet
  • jell-O (optional)

Students create a myth about the causes of earthquakes.

Damage to a freeway, 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake,
 Oakland, California


The students have learned that earthquakes emit energy in the form of seismic waves. These seismic waves travel through the Earth, rocks, water, buildings and almost any other substance or structure. We experience shaking during an earthquake because we are surrounded by these substances or structures.

Understanding how the release of energy causes so much damage is difficult. People who do not have a scientific background may not fully realize how the Earth could cause such disasters. When people do not know the facts, many times they develop their own stories or myths of why such an event may happen. Myths are usually based on a little accurate information, and much exaggeration.

  1. You may want to reinforce the concepts students explored in lab with a jell-O demonstration. Demonstrate the travel of energy waves by tapping the side of a slab of jell-O (any color will do). Vary the strength of your taps to show the class how different amounts of energy change the amount of shaking.
  2. The students have seen that the movement of the Earth's crust causes earthquakes. They now know that earthquakes produce energy in the form of waves. A common question that comes up, both with children and adults, is "why does the Earth's surface crack during an earthquake?" A full explanation of this is difficult, especially if no one in the discussion has a scientific background. In ancient times, people would create myths to try and explain what was actually happening. In this exercise, the students will write their own myth to explain the cracking and shaking of the Earth caused by earthquakes.
  3. The Geos Myth activity can help illustrate how the Earth's surface breaks due to pressure. Emphasize with the students that they are going to create a myth that is based on some scientific information, but is not necessarily true. Explain that this kind of explanation was common in ancient times, before the development of modern science.
  4. Read the introduction of the worksheet to the class. It is included below as a presentation, along with the image of Geos.
  5. After you are sure the students understand the reading, have them write their own myth. Have them try to use information from the previous labs. Point out that they are to be creative. Explain that myths sometimes contain some truth, but myths are not always true. The main point that the students should develop in their storyline is that pressure building up inside the Earth causes earthquakes. If Geos can become liquid, then the cracks in the Earth can also become volcanoes and Geos can escape. Note that the cracking of the Earth can signify earthquakes as well as volcanoes.

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