Wednesday, September 28, 2011

A Teachable Earthquake

When something unexpected occurs, either in the classroom or in the world, and it provides an opportunity to teach outside of the curriculum, educators refer to this as a "teachable moment."  The East Coast Earthquake of 2011, centered in Virginia, is an example of a "teachable" event that actually fits conveniently into our curriculum for sixth grade.

After our study of plate tectonics, we have moved on to look more closely at the catastrophic byproducts of plate movement - earthquakes and volcanoes.  As we studied earthquakes, however, the earthquake that we all experienced just a few weeks ago has become a meaningful piece of experience that the kids all share with the concepts covered in class.

Once we had explained the causes of earthquakes, as well as the concepts of the focus and epicenters of quakes, we were able to examine the USGS maps of the 2011 East Coast Earthquake.  Since several of our students were on vacation in several different spots along the east coast, we were able to plot their locations and their experience based on the epicenter and magnitude diagram shown below. 

Most of our students knew several facts and had lots of questions about the earthquake based on the news coverage from that day.  To further explore their memory of the quake, we watched news footage of the breaking story.  The video below includes security camera footage of the shaking at the White House. 

Overall, the kids could much more easily relate to the feeling of a quake given that they had just experienced a historic one just a few weeks ago.  


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