Characteristics of Earthquakes Lesson Plan

Students will learn about the characteristics of an earthquake, discuss the theory of plate tectonics, and map the regions of the United States that are most susceptible to earthquakes.
·         Computer with Internet access
·         Population density map (available online)
·         Writing and drawing materials
·         Blank Xpeditions outline maps of the United States, one for each student (sheet attatched)
1.      Have students learn about plate tectonics by going to one or more of the listed web sites provided below. Ask them to take notes on the theory of plate tectonics and why earthquakes occur. Then discuss these concepts with the entire class.
BrainPOP: Plate Tectonics:
2.      Hand out to each student a blank United States outline map and have them look at a map of the Earth’s major plates.
3.      Ask the students to determine which areas of the United States are probably most susceptible to earthquakes, based on what they have learned. Have them use dark colored pencils to draw the plate boundaries and light colored pencils to shade in the predicted areas of high earthquake risk on their maps.
4.      Have students look at this population density map of North America, created from National Geographic's MapMachine. They can zoom in and out on specific areas and customize the map in different ways. Ask students whether there is a relationship between population density and areas of increased risk for earthquakes. This should lead into a class discussion or have the students partner up to talk.
5.      Students should then browse through the assigned websites to conduct research
Have students write paragraphs explaining the reasons why earthquakes tend to occur on plate boundaries.

Students will turn in their United States map with the correct coloring and hand in their earthquake research paragraphs.