Plate Tectonics and
Earthquake Curriculum

joint project with Math Science Nucleus, City of Fremont, U.S. Geological Survey, California Geological Survery

How can I teach earthquakes?

Earthquakes are difficult to teach because it includes understanding the structure of the Earth and basic seismic principles of how energy is released.  Earthquakes are just one part of teaching Plate Tectonics.  Basically volcanoes is the physical evidence and earthquakes are the geophysical evidence.  The data collected from both of these subfields of earth sciences provide the evidence for Plate Tectonics.  Once a child or adult has been taught the basic principles the hazards can be approached in a scientific and engineering way.

The Plate Tectonic Cycle refers to the movement of large portions of the earth's crust in what is termed "plates." The boundaries of these plates are generally defined by the occurrence of volcanoes and earthquakes. The driving forces that move these plates are a combination of events that occur within the Earth. Stresses on the crust caused by the spinning of the Earth also is a factor. The immediate fueling of the movement probably occurs within the atmosphere which includes the crust of the earth and the upper portion of the mantle. There are basically 2 divisions that geologist use to divide the earth - one that deals with the entire Earth (core, mantle, and crust) and one that deals with the outer portion (asthenosphere, lithosphere, hydrosphere and atmosphere). More information is known about the asthenosphere and the lithosphere because data is more easily obtained. The mechanism of how these various layers of the earth interact is still being investigated.  

The scope and sequence for Plate Tectonics for Elementary Grades (K-6) developed by the Math Science Nucleus is shown in the grid below.  If you would like to look at the full curriculum with lesson plans click here.

  K 1 2 3 4 5 6
(1 week)
Volcanoes Produce Rocks Volcanoes have Definite Shapes Products of Volcanoes Creating Rocks from Lava 3 Basic Types of Volcanoes Volcanoes produce Different Rocks Location of Volcanoes
(1 week)
Shaking during an Earthquake Earthquakes Release Energy Earthquake Faults Seismic Waves cause Damage Measuring Earthquake Intensities  Wave Movements and Seismograms Dividing the Earth by Waves
Plate Tectonics
(1 week)
Continents and Oceans Moving Continents  Evidence from Continents Pressure in the Earth Diverging, Converging, Transform Boundaries Crustal Movement Definition of Plate Boundaries
(1 week)
Earthquakes and Volcanoes cause Damage Volcanic Eruptions Where do you go for Help? Historical Damage (Volcanoes) Damage during Earthquakes Mudslides and Volcanoes "Earthquake Proof" Structures


If you would like to be directed to an online Textbook appropriate for 7-9th grade, please click here for more information on the grid shown below

   Lesson 1 - General Earthquake Information

   Lesson 2 - Earthquake Legends and Science

   Lesson 3 - Plotting Earthquake Lab

   Lesson 4 - New Madrid, Missouri

   Lesson 5 - Earthquake Damage


Review Test

Teacher Corner

MATH SCIENCE NUCLEUS since 1982 has served the education and public by offering quality science and math lessons that take our children learn critical thinking skills. We manage the Children's Natural History Museum and Tule Ponds at Tyson Lagoon Wetland Center.

CITY OF FREMONT is located in the southeast San Francisco Bay area and straddling both the East Bay and South Bay regions.  It has a population of close to 1/4 million people and one of the largest city by land in San Francisco Bay area.   
U.S. GEOLOGICAL SURVEY is a government agency that Federal source for science about the Earth, its natural and living resources, natural hazards, and the environment.  They provide the posters and map for the Faulted Floor Exhibit.
CALIFORNIA GEOLOGICAL SURVEY was established in 1860, and one of the oldest geological surveys in the United States, serving as a primary source of geologic information for California’s government agencies, businesses, and public.


Math/Science Nucleus
 4074 Eggers Drive, Fremont, California, U.S.A., 94536
 (510) 790-6284

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