Shake it Up with Seismographs

Contributor
TryEngineering Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers
Type Category
Instructional Materials
Types
Lesson/Lesson Plan
Note
This resource, vetted by NSTA curators, is provided to teachers along with suggested modifications to make it more in line with the vision of the NGSS. While not considered to be “fully aligned,” the resources and expert recommendations provide teachers with concrete examples and expert guidance using the EQuIP rubric to adapted existing resources. Read more here.

Reviews

Description

Students work in teams to design their own seismographs using everyday materials, (string, wire, paper, pencil, marker, pen, paper clips, glue, cardboard, poster board, foil, rubber bands, tape, pan or tray, clay) then test their design to record a simulated classroom "earthquake". Students evaluate the effectiveness of their designs, present their findings to the class, and learn how the best designed seismograph will record small disturbances. Students will also develop an understanding of ways that engineering design/technology may impact human life with respect to natural hazards.

Intended Audience

Educator
Educational Level
  • Upper Elementary
Language
English
Access Restrictions

Free access - The right to view and/or download material without financial, registration, or excessive advertising barriers.

Performance Expectations

3-5-ETS1-1 Define a simple design problem reflecting a need or a want that includes specified criteria for success and constraints on materials, time, or cost.

Clarification Statement: none

Assessment Boundary: none

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this performance expectation.

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
Focus classroom discourse on criteria ( "Design a seismograph that will allow you and your team to record the intensity of a simulated classroom earthquake. The best design will be able to record the smallest disturbance") and constraints ("Teams are limited to use only the materials provided by the teacher"). Review of natural earth processes which result in earthquakes could help students determine why we need to know about those processes, and how we can lessen the impact of impending earthquakes. Students could discuss the properties of their materials prior to beginning the design process, rating their ability to address the design criteria. Questions might include-"What is the goal of your design?" "How will your design provide information to lessen potential impact of an earthquake for humans and landscapes?" "How will your seismograph accomplish this goal?" "What factors should be considered in your design choices?"

4-ESS3-2 Generate and compare multiple solutions to reduce the impacts of natural Earth processes on humans.

Clarification Statement: Examples of solutions could include designing an earthquake resistant building and improving monitoring of volcanic activity.

Assessment Boundary: Assessment is limited to earthquakes, floods, tsunamis, and volcanic eruptions.

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this performance expectation, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
In order to underscore the importance of understanding the impact of earthquake damage, students could view photos or videos of before/after earthquake occurrences. It is important for students to understand that natural earth processes like earthquakes cannot be prevented. Discussion could include what humans can do to lessen the impact of earthquake damage, and ways in which early warning systems might be helpful. Students could brainstorm possible solutions, rating their importance on a class list, giving evidence for their choices. The essay question provided in the resource will provide a starting point for this discussion. "How might the use of technology possibly lessened the impact of the 1960 earthquake in Chile?" Information about this earthquake is available in the student resource sheet.

Science and Engineering Practices

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this science and engineering practice.

Comments about Including the Science and Engineering Practice
Student recording sheet provides students with the opportunity to measure and observe each test situation. Teacher could assess student's prior knowledge of recording data by reviewing steps in data collection, reinforcing concepts of fair and measurable testing procedures. Since students are actually designing solutions to create a seismograph, the teacher could explicitly discuss the practice and review the engineering design process with the students, since neither is explicitly stated in the lesson.

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this science and engineering practice.

Comments about Including the Science and Engineering Practice
Students could produce illustrations for their design, explaining how their designs compare or contrast with warning system models they have researched. This journaling activity could provide the teacher with a formative assessment opportunity, in observing whether students are able to understand criteria involved in the design process.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this disciplinary core idea, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
Students could work in groups, with each group researching one type of detection system. Students could report on their type of system, comparing/contrasting the ways each system works. The student resource page included in the resource could provide a beginning research opportunity for students. Students could use their findings to discuss how to create their own design solution, then record their own test data on the student worksheet. Teacher might discuss constraints for their designs ( materials available), as well as criteria for the design, which engineers must consider when creating design solutions.

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this disciplinary core idea, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
Students might invite civil engineers to visit their class in order to learn how an engineer contends with the constraints and criteria when creating a design solution.

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this disciplinary core idea.

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
Students might discuss what they think would be suitable warning systems for earthquake occurrences, with teacher modeling focusing on use of vibrations. They might conduct this discussion before researching types of warning systems. In this way, students might understand how the earth itself gives warning "clues" and how best scientists might use these "clues" to assist in warning system design and development. This resource explores ways that technology and the environment interact in order to save lives. Students might use the student resource sheet included in the resource to learn how technology has improved over time to accurately record earthquakes.

Crosscutting Concepts

This resource was not designed to build towards this crosscutting concept, but can be used to build towards it using the suggestions provided below.

Comments about Including the Crosscutting Concept
Teacher could explicitly discuss how an earthquake occurs ( cause) which sends vibrations that can be measured on seismographs (effect). The cause and effect relationship allows scientists to obtain the information that might help reduce impacts.

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this crosscutting concept, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Crosscutting Concept
Data recording sheet could be reviewed by students. They could journal what they observe (patterns) in each test, then explain the evidence for their choices. Questions for discussion could include, " What connections can be made between the patterns that our testing demonstrates and that of scientists who assess earthquake intensity?" " Why is this recording of data so important to scientists?"

Resource Quality

  • Alignment to the Dimensions of the NGSS: This resource supports students in designing solutions, allowing them to create a connection between environmental impacts and technology. Students are given opportunities to test their designs, reflect on their success, and modify them in a well-structured problem solving activity. The Practices and Cross-Cutting concepts would need to be discussed explicitly in order to fully implement three- dimensional learning.

  • Instructional Supports: This resource does engage students in authentic and meaningful scenarios, and allows them to represent their ideas, and receive input from teachers and peers. However, it does not explicitly identify prior knowledge about the earthquake phenomena. Teacher could review/assess prior knowledge, providing students with the ability to understand the importance of their design solutions. The resource does not provide differentiated instruction for struggling students. The student resource sheet's content and vocabulary might need teacher reading/modeling for those students. Teacher could review the vocabulary and discuss worksheet's content, possibly with all students.

  • Monitoring Student Progress: Teachers are provided with observable learning, with opportunities for formative assessment available in the student reflection sheet. Optional essays are included which could also be used as a summative assessment.

  • Quality of Technological Interactivity: This resource does not provide technological interactivity opportunities for students, but does list several internet sites available for students to use in research activities.