Designing Structures to Withstand an Earthquake
Apr 20 2011
Tess's picture
Source: Tess
Summary Information


Japan, earthquake, structure, design, balance, differentiated, load


Earth Science

Workplace Skills: 

Raising Questions
Problem Solving
Investigation Design
Secondary Research
Use of Data
Recording & Reporting
Independent Thinking

Estimated Time Required:

2-3 hours

Target Grade (Ages):

Grade 6 (Ages 11-12)

Diversity Indicators:

This lesson is designed for various learning styles. Students will have an artistic aspect, design aspect, visual and kinesthetic aspect. Differentiated extension activities are included.

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Your Rating: 

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Great lesson

amandasolarsh's picture

I think that this is a great lesson that combines science with current events and real world applications. I have done a similar activity where my students build earthquake structures but I like how you connected it to the recent events in Japan. Having the students have to consider the economic costs associated with their building makes the students use skills that are required to solve today's real world problems when they are given criteria and constraints, like a budget.

One question I have how does the compass measure the quake strength? Perhaps a diagram or video showing how this would work would be helpful.

If I were to do this lesson with my student's, I would have them discuss how the science concepts of compression and elasticity were incorporated into their design (could be included in the student lab sheet). I would also have each of the group's present their designs and test them in front of the entire class so that students can see how other groups decided to meet the challenge. While each group presents, the rest of the class can take notes on the other groups' designs and the success/failures of their designs. Then they could really reflect on their design as well as their class mates and figure out what would be the best solution for the people of Japan.

One year anniversary this past week

dbianco's picture

With the passing of the anniversary of the earthquake in Japan it is important to encourage students to explore the long-term effects earthquakes have on structures. It is important that students should understand the activity as a real world problem where we need strong safe building structures. I also like that it gives the students an opportunity to generate ideas for possible solutions, both individually and through group activity.and determine the best solution, and explain reasons for the choices.

This is also a great lesson

medicenmaria's picture
This is also a great lesson for students in Mexico, since we live in a very seismic area; actually we just have had one of the strongest earthquakes in our modern history causing the collapse of more than 40 buildings and the most worrying thing, leaving many in an uninhabitable state, so this has been a problem for us since 1957 and then the most destructive one back in 1985. 32 years later, I think is important for our society to inculcate from childhood the importance of applying and respecting science facts and research about how to build structures that withstand the strenght of big eartquakes, so that we can live in calm and safely, knowing that we live in such an area and in which all the time we are exposed to theses events. I also think that is important for our society to have this knowledge, so that we can demand to construction companies, better desgins and use of materials, already having this prior knowlegde and in the same way to create an anti-corruption culture that is the greatest evil that afflicts us, by learning the importance of meeting the standards of construction of buildings in highly seismic areas. So the way I see this lesson, is to cultivate the awareness in our society of building safe structures to preserve the lives of our families and friends.