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Lessons and Activities

These resources will help students in grades 9–12 refine their understanding of plate tectonics, the development of the theory of plate tectonics, and the engineering design behind structures built to withstand earthquakes.

March 11 Earthquake and Tsunami

Teaching Geoscience with Visualizations: Using Images, Animations, and Models Effectively—2011 Japan Earthquake and Tsunami. Browse this set of visualizations to learn more about the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

Map of the Damage from the Japanese Earthquake. Find photographs on this interactive map of places in Japan damaged by the earthquake and tsunami.

Magnitude 9.0 Great Earthquake Near East Coast of Honshu, Japan. Read this earthquake summary, examine maps indicating where foreshocks occurred, review regional tectonics, and analyze a seismogram.

Japan Before and After the Earthquake, Tsunami. View these before-and-after photos to understand the extent of the destruction that occurred as a result of the earthquake and tsunami.

Tsunami Propagation for Honshu Tsunami Event, March 11, 2011. Watch this animation to see how the tsunami wave traveled across the Pacific.


What Happens When Plates Collide with Each Other? (Earthquakes) (ORC #10421). Plot recent earthquakes on a world physical map, explore a lesson on plate tectonics, and plot an earthquake epicenter via triangulation.

Exploring the Evidence for Plate Tectonics (ORC #11510). Examine the three lines of evidence for plate tectonics and learn how evidence is gathered and hypotheses are tested.

Plate Tectonics (ORC #7168). Explore how the theory of plate tectonics was developed and examine the evidence that supports the theory.

Earthquake Shaking-Building Contest and Shake Table Testing Activity (ORC #3683). Explore earthquake hazards and damage to buildings by constructing model buildings and subjecting the buildings to ground vibration (shaking similar to earthquake vibrations) on a small shake table.

Earth Movers (ORC #3469). Discover the relationship between plate tectonics, mountains, earthquakes, and volcanoes.

Earthquake Hazards Program (ORC #558). Find data for recent earthquakes.

Faultline: Seismic Science at the Epicenter. Explore San Francisco earthquakes through this interactive site.

Faults and Fault Zones. Discover some of the surface features related to various types of faults.

Building Quake-Resistant Structures in the Classroom. Design a structure that can withstand an earthquake.

Animations for Earthquake Terms and Concepts. Visualize earthquake terms and concepts through these animations.

Earthquake Facts. Marvel at some interesting facts about earthquakes.


Tsunami: An Interactive Guide That Could Save Your Life. Explore the fundamentals of tsunamis, recent tsunami news, historic tsunamis, and ways to survive a tsunami.

NOAA Center for Tsunami Research. Watch narrated animations of the tsunami and review tsunami-related data.

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Recent Earthquake Teachable Moments. Choose resources for your classroom from this comprehensive list.

OhioSeis: The Ohio Seismic Network (ORC #510). Learn more about Ohio's earthquake history and potential.

The Quake-Catcher Network. Join the Quake-Catcher Network and request a USB sensor so you can help researchers learn more about earthquakes. Download interactive software to learn more about earthquakes.