In the past few weeks, we’ve been learning about the Earth’s layers (you can see how to make a Layers of the Earth model here), tectonic plates, volcanoes, and earthquakes. For the teaching on earthquakes, I wanted to give the kids a hands-on activity that would help them remember what they learned.This earthquake experiment is simple and requires very few items to create. This can easily be done at home and chances are, you already have the items you’ll need.
- metal cookie sheet
- wooden blocks
- Lego bricks
- First, have the students construct a tower on the cookie sheet using the wooden blocks.
- Have two of the kids sit on either side of the cookie sheet and shake it as if there were an earthquake. Not surprisingly, when we did this, the tower crumbled with very little shaking and the blocks fell.
The metal cookie tray is meant to represent a tectonic plate and the shaking represents the shifting that happens with an earthquake.
Directions Part Two:
- Next, work together to construct a tower with interlocking Lego blocks. Our kids, are always excited when Lego and school collide! Made it approximately the same height and shape as the wooden block tower. For us, it took much longer of course to make the Lego brick tower, which led to a discussion about how sometimes doing things the right way takes more time.
- Set the new tower on the cookie sheet and have two kids sit on either side (in order for the experiment to be as scientific as possible, we wanted to use the same people so that they could attempt to create the same earthquake force). At first, they recreated the same shaking they had the first time and the tower stayed intact.
- Simulate a larger, more powerful earthquake. When we did this, they became more and more forceful with the shaking, eventually lifting the tray up and banging it up and down as well as side to side before they were able to knock the tower over and dislodge a few of the bricks.
This simple earthquake experiment is an easy way to demonstrate to kids why buildings in earthquake-prone areas need to be built differently to withstand the fallout of the quakes.
Ways to expand your learning about earthquakes:
- Experiment to show the destruction of earthquakes along fault lines
- Seismic Waves
- Tectonic Plates, Earthquakes, and Volcanos
- What is an Earthquake?
Books for Kids about Earthquakes:
Why Do Tectonic Plates Crash and Slip? Geology Book for KidsEarthquakes and Other Natural DisastersTummy Rumble Quake: An Earthquake Safety BookEarthquakes! – An Earthshaking Book on the Science of Plate TectonicsJump Into Science: Earthquakes
You may also be interested in these other easy science activities for kids about the Earth: