Creating the Virtual Model


  • This lesson explores earthquake engineering design with the help of Shake and Quake, an earthquake simulator, specific to three earthquakes (seismic events); El Centro (1940), Northridge (1994), and Kobe (1995).

Estimated Time

  • Five minutes- engagement activity
  • 30-45 minutes- lesson


  • Classroom of computers with Internet access
  • Worksheets include Data Log and three earthquake information sheets (El Centro, Northridge, and Kobe)
  • Pencils and/or pens
  • Rulers
  • Deck of cards (engagement activity)


  • Students will understand the importance of support placement and materials used, in relation to real-life seismic events.
  • Through the use of worksheets, discussions, and reporting about the event the students experience the importance of earthquake engineering design in our lives.

National Standards Addressed

Math (Presented by National Council of Teachers of Mathematics in 2000)
Numbers & Operations
  • Use visualization, spatial reasoning, and geometric modeling to solve problems.
Data Analysis and Probability
  • Develop and evaluate inferences and predictions that are based on data.
Problem Solving
  • Solve problems that arise in mathematics and in other contexts
  • Apply and adapt a variety of appropriate strategies to solve problems
  • Communicate their mathematical thinking coherently and clearly to peers, teachers, and others
  • Recognize and apply mathematics in contexts outside of mathematics
Science (Presented by National Research Council in 1996)
Science in Personal and Social Perspectives
  • Natural hazards
  • Risks and benefits
Technology (Presented by the International Society for Technology in Education in 1998)
Technology productivity tools
  • Students use technology tools to enhance learning, increase productivity, and promote creativity.
Technology problem-solving and decision-making tools
  • Students use technology resources for solving problems and making informed decisions.
  • Students employ technology in the development of strategies for solving problems in the real world.

Engagement Activity (optional)

  • Have students split into groups of 4. Give each group a deck of cards, ask the students to build a structure, using however many cards they wish, in whatever form they want, but using only the cards. Inform the students that after a few minutes you will come around and shake their table.
  • After you have shaken the table, ask the students briefly what could have made their structures stronger to stand up to your gentle (or not so gentle) shaking of the table.

Instructional Plan

  • Group students: small groups of 2-4 work best, but depending on the number of computers available, you may opt for larger groupings.
  • Give each person the Data Log worksheet, and each group at least one earthquake information sheet. Worksheets are available for the earthquakes titled El Centro, Kobe, and Northridge. You may choose to either give each group a different seismic event to focus on, or if you have more time, you may give every group all 3 seismic events.
  • Instruct the students to find information on their specific seismic event, using the resources listed on the information sheets.
  • Have the students gather around a single computer, and walk the students through the basics of the Shake and Quake earthquake simulator. Instruct the students to find information on their specific seismic event, using the resources listed on the information sheets.
  • Have each group sit at a single computer, and direct the students to the simulator located at Connecte²d Teaching.
  • Students will walk through each step of the Shake and Quake module, using the seismic event specific to their group as the seismic event experienced in the module.
  • After each group is finished, take a quick survey to see what supports they used, what seismic event was experienced, and how their building withstood the earthquake.
  • Encourage each group to improve their model so that the building will better withstand an earthquake with the same or stronger magnitude.

Sustaining, Concluding, or Extending Activities (optional)

  • After students have completed the Shake and Quake earthquake simulator, students will fill out their Data Logs writing a description of what they built, what event they were given, and the results of this combination. The chart of money spent should also be filled out in this log.
  • Have students switch seismic events, or how they built their structure, staying within the budget, with the least amount of damage.

Evaluation and Assessment

  • Through the Data Logs and the discussions between the students during class, comprehension can be evaluated, as to the importance of building materials in relation to the seismic events themselves.
  • Students will also be able to relate the information from the earthquake simulator to the blueprints drawn in a previous lesson, to compare how their prior structures would have survived a particular seismic event.

E-Resources, Print Materials, and Hands-on Activities