Earthquake Education Resources

The purpose of this guide is to direct users to useful educational resources for students K-12. The guide is organized according to education level as well as general subject interest. To quickly access one of the following sections, please select a link below:

Comprehensive Sources

Connecte²d Teaching
Connecte²d Teaching presents a unique real-life scenario in earthquake engineering design, offering students the opportunity to increase their understanding while motivating them to learn more, and to explore the fascinating world of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. The site features lesson plans, an earthquake simulator, and links to valuable supplemental online resources.
The Disaster Center
A comprehensive site with information about earthquakes (causes, plate tectonics, preparedness, hazard maps, effects, risk prediction, children's sites, seismic design, EQ info for educators, international EQ info). Also includes a variety of natural hazards (drought, flood, hurricanes, etc).
Documenting Earthquakes: A Virtual Exhibit in 6 Parts
Caltech's Archives offers this online exhibit comprised of six sections: Documenting the 1906 Quake; the Beginnings of Seismology at Caltech; Charles Richter and the Earthquake Magnitude Scale; Historical Accounts from the George W. Housner Rare Book Collection; Namazu-e: Japanese Earthquake Prints from the George W. Housner Collection; and Earthquakes and Volcanoes: Sir William Hamilton's Report to the Royal Society, 1776-1779.
Exploratorium: Life Along the Faultline
Provides earthquake information suitable for middle school and high school students. Video from the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake and photographs from the 1906 San Francisco earthquake illustrate seismic damage and community disaster response. Site also features explanations for the causes of earthquakes, methods for building earthquake resistant structures, several earth science projects, and a list of links to other earthquake-related sites.
Geological Society of America: Resources for K-12 Earth Science Educators
Contains numerous lesson plans, categorized by grade level, covering a wide variety of earth science topics, including sections with the headings "Plate Tectonics" and "Earthquakes and Volcanoes." Offered as supplements to the lesson plans are lists of "Additional Resources," such as educational information links, computer software, videos, books and other teaching media.
Established by the Earthquake Engineering Research Centre at the University of Bristol, UK, IDEERS (Introducing and Demonstrating Earthquake Engineering Research in Schools) is an excellent starting point for anyone looking to understand basic concepts of earthquake engineering. Information on earthquakes and plate tectonics, suitable for middle school and high school students, as well as the general public, is conveyed with the help of numerous illustrations and an online glossary of terms. The "Shaken Societies" section focuses on damage caused by recent, major earthquakes in various parts of the world. "Resistant Building" covers a wide variety of attempts by engineers to enable structures to resist the damaging effects of seismic events.
IRIS Education and Outreach
Site maintained by the Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology (IRIS). Presents educators with lesson plans, lists of educational resources and interactive software related to earthquakes and seismology. Additionally of interest is IRIS' Seismic Monitor, an interactive, educational display of global seismicity that monitors earthquakes in near real-time. Display is updated every 20 minutes using data from the National Earthquake Information Center and can be found at Additionally, the Recent Earthquake Teachable Moments page offers presentations, animations, visualizations and resources (English and Spanish).
National Earthquake Information Center
This US Geological Survey page focuses on earthquake information. One can link to current earthquake information nationally and globally, find general information about earthquakes, and locate statistics pertaining to the largest earthquakes of the year, as well as search the international registry of seismograph stations. The link to Learning and Education is very comprehensive and useful for students doing projects or papers on earthquakes. It features United States seismicity, earthquake history, and FAQs.
National Science Digital Library
Funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Science Digital Library is an ambitious project, the objective of which is to collect a wide array of free, electronic resources addressing science-related material. Materials include educational resources targeted at elementary school students, professional materials aimed at current practitioners and researchers. The Library is slated to be the Internet's most comprehensive resource for such tools by 2007. Among the fields in the Library's scope are engineering and earth science.
Public Earthquake Resource Center (PERC)
Site includes both practical information - tips on how to survive an earthquake and how to stock an emergency survival kit - and interesting trivia - myths explaining earthquakes from different cultures of the world. The page is located on the Web site of the Center for Earthquake Research and Information at the University of Memphis.
Seismic Resources on the World Wide Web
A comprehensive set of links developed for the Georgia Tech Earthquake Hazards and recording Workshop held at the Georgia Institute of Technology on June 22-25, 1998, and now sponsored by the Mid-America Earthquake Center. Contains links to seismicity information, classroom projects, photos of earthquake damage, and education-related sites.
Seismology Resources for Teachers
Sponsored by the Seismological Society of America, this list of reference materials was prepared to provide teachers (primarily grades K-12) with informational resources. These are grouped into seven categories: reference information (a list of print materials), maps, slide sets, videotapes, computer hardware/software, seismographs, and databases. Extremely comprehensive and well maintained site.
Southern California Earthquake Center (SCEC): Education
SCEC presents resources for earthquake education suitable for both College/Faculty and K-12 levels. For the latter group, two notable "Education Modules" are provided: "Investigating Earthquakes through Regional Seismicity" and "Exploring the Use of Space Technology in Earthquake Studies." General information is also available, including an "Electronic Encyclopedia of Earthquakes," a preparedness handbook, links to information on recent earthquakes, and interactive maps detailing faults and historical earthquakes in Southern California.
The USGS and Science Education
This USGS-maintained site invites K-12 students and educators to explore the sciences through projects and carefully selected, linked resources divided into four subject areas: geology, biology, geography and hydrology.
USGS: Earthquake Hazards Program
This site serves as an entry point for all USGS earthquake information and provides information about the latest earthquakes around the world. Links to a visual glossary, earthquake topics, learning and education materials, and the portal to enroll in the earthquake notification system are included.


High School & Middle School Resources

ASCEville, ASCE's Website for Children, Helps Kids' Understanding of Civil Engineering
Where should kids go online to learn how civil engineers design and build a better world? To ASCEville, of course! Kids of all ages have a new online destination where they will be introduced to the important role of civil engineering in the world around us and the exciting challenges and possibilities that face civil engineers. ASCEville's engaging graphics, interactive activities, and compelling stories of inspiring young engineers appeal to kids, grades 4 – 8, while promoting the excitement, creativity, and rewards of civil engineering.
Big Trouble in Earthquake Country
Online research project, best suited for teenagers in grades 9-12, guides students through a wealth of information about earthquakes, faults, and geologic hazards, and then asks them to study geologic, city/street, and topographic maps of the area in which they live. The assignment asks students to predict the likelihood of seismic activity in their area, and the effects that such activity would have on their community. The site carries built-in maps and contact information related to the San Francisco Bay area, though the assignment is applicable to students in any location.
Bridge to Classroom
The Eastern Span Replacement of the Oakland Bay Bridge is designed to withstand severe earthquakes. To explore the challenges facing bridge designers and builders, eduweb working with the California Alliance for Jobs, developed several interactive modules exploring the science, technology and people involved in the project: (1) learn about plate tectonics and the coming quake, (2) design a bridge that can withstand a Maximum Seismic Event – then it to see how it fares, and (3) explore the people and technologies involved in the new bridge.
Building Big
Developed as a compliment to the five-part PBS television series of the same name, Building Big is an introduction to engineering concepts designed for students in grades 5-8. Through units on bridges, domes, skyscrapers, dams, and tunnels, students are encouraged to apply the information on the site to engineering decisions in a series of "challenges." Real-world examples of each type of structure are explored. Engineers in various fields explain the nature of their work. While earthquake hazards are not its primary focus, the site provides ample information on the different forces that structures must withstand in order to survive.
Earthquake is an online learning experience developed by natural science faculty members and support staff at California State University, Los Angeles. Two thought-provoking components of the assignment, "Travel Time" and "Epicenter and Magnitude," are appropriate for either introductory college geology students or high school science students, while some middle school teachers have also included Earthquake in their lesson plans.
Shakes & Quakes
Developed by the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute at the University of Notre Dame, Shakes and Quakes offers a lesson plan appropriate for middle-school earth science students and adaptable for younger audiences. In the lesson, students learn some fundamental concepts of engineering and apply these to the construction of "buildings" with Legos and K'Nex building toys. Through the cooperation of a university (a link to participating universities is available on the site) students test the soundness of the structures against the threat of earthquakes by placing their constructions on a shaking table. A detailed lesson plan with teaching tips is available on the site.
Understanding Earthquakes
Provides a general overview of earthquake topics on a level suitable for middle school students. It features a quiz, EQ locations on a rotating globe, famous earthquake accounts, how earthquakes occur, history of seismology, as well as links to other sites.
Sponsored by the Michigan Technical University, this site includes information on the causes of earthquakes, preparedness and response, and seismic waves and seismograms. Also included are a bibliography and a list of earthquakes that have occurred in the midwestern and eastern U.S.
USGS Fact Sheet
Written in non-technical language suitable for middle-school students, the fact sheets on this USGS Web page cover various hazards. Categories include: general hazards, volcanoes, earthquake hazards, landslide hazards, and flood hazards.


Sources for Elementary School

Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) Kids Zone
Good resources for teachers working with students in grades 4-7. This educational resource has undergone some major revisions. It includes fieldtrips kids can take to see faults in action and describes the basics of earthquake effects. A crossword puzzle and several word-searches featuring earthquake terminology are also available. Instructors should note that some of the terms and clues included are specific to the San Francisco Bay area.
FEMA for Kids
Specifically designed for children, it provides stories, games, video clips, photos, and activities on a variety of hazards.


Geology, Plate Tectonics, Earth Science, & Seismology Resources

The ABC's of Plate Tectonics
Presented in a series of four lessons plus an introduction and background readings, this page is an excellent source of information for high school level (and possibly advanced middle school) students.
Documenting Earthquakes: A Virtual Exhibit in 6 Parts
Caltech's Archives offers this online exhibit comprised of six sections: Documenting the 1906 Quake; the Beginnings of Seismology at Caltech; Charles Richter and the Earthquake Magnitude Scale; Historical Accounts from the George W. Housner Rare Book Collection; Namazu-e: Japanese Earthquake Prints from the George W. Housner Collection; and Earthquakes and Volcanoes: Sir William Hamilton's Report to the Royal Society, 1776-1779.
Earth Observatory: Natural Hazards
Maintained by NASA, provides access to satellite photography of currently occurring natural hazards around the world. Archives are available for images of past events as well. Photographs are accompanied by short, explanatory articles. Among the events featured are dust and smoke, fires, floods, severe storms, and volcanoes. Non-hazard-related photographs are featured in the "Unique Imagery" section. While satellite images of earthquake damage are not available, the site does provide information on plate tectonics along with a link to a digital tectonic activity map at
Geology: Plate Tectonics
Designed for high school students, this page explains the history of plate tectonics with animated illustrations.
Lehman Seismometer
Taken from the July 1979 Scientific American Magazine, this article demonstrates how to build a simple seismograph to record earthquake waves at home.
Planet Earth Guides
Amid a variety of topics in earth science, this site features rich multimedia presentations on earthquake hazards, earthquakes and buildings, and plate tectonics. In particular it features a detailed presentation on the San Andreas Fault, with animations, photographs, sound recordings, and video clips.
Soil Liquefaction
From the University of Washington's Department of Civil Engineering, this site provides the layperson basic information about the "what," "when," "where," "why," and "how" of liquefaction, while including more in-depth information intended for engineers. Concepts are illustrated through the inclusion of diagrams and photographs of damage caused by liquefaction. Links are provided both to liquefaction-specific research sites and general earthquake information sites.
Tectonic Plate Motion
Focusing on results from satellite laser ranging, this site comprises a series of maps that show the tectonic plates and the directions of their motions.
UNR (University of Nevada at Reno) Seismological Laboratory
The About Earthquakes section of this page provides preparedness information, stories about experiences in earthquakes, plus individual lectures on plate tectonics, seismic waves, Richter magnitude, Kobe, intensities, and the earth's interior.
USGS Geology in the Parks
A collaborative effort of the US Geological Survey (USGS) and the National Park Service, this site aims to provide a non-technical approach to geology suitable for audiences of middle-school age and up. Information is presented at a variety of technical levels and is organized by general geology topics - such as geologic maps, plate tectonics, rocks & minerals, and geologic time - and by individual parks, including, among others, Death Valley, North Cascades, and Joshua Tree. Of particular interest is Joshua Tree National Park: On Shaky Ground, which details the causes and effects of a magnitude 7.1 earthquake that shook the park in 1999.