Earthquakes and Plate Tectonics

What causes the shaking motion felt when devastating earthquakes happen around the globe? This lesson provides students the opportunity to explore the forces and physical features that causes some of the natural disasters they see in the media.  Students begin this lesson by analyzing patterns associated with the locations of some of history’s most devastating earthquakes. Through explorations of these patterns students begin to wonder why there are so many earthquakes in these locations.  Students then gain information about Pangaea and plate tectonics, which assists them in drawing connections between the locations of the world’s most devastating earthquakes and major tectonic plates around the globe.


1.    Engage
•    What are the top ten earthquakes every recorded? – Students begin this lesson by reading an article about the top ten earthquakes ever recorded.
•    Discussion of “Top Ten Earthquakes” article and discussion. – Students are then led through a discussion of the article and encouraged to discuss any information they know of recent earthquakes.

2.    Explore
•    Where are the top ten earthquakes located? – Students map out the top ten earthquakes on a map.
•    Are there any patterns associated with the locations of the top ten earthquakes? – Students are asked to analyze any patterns associated with the locations of these earthquakes.

3.    Explain

•    Ring of Fire – Students are introduced to a term used by many to describe a global, “Hot Spot”, for earthquakes and volcanoes.
•    What Causes Earthquakes– Students are led through a series of questions and explanations from the PowerPoint for this lesson.

4.    Extensions and Application
•    Societal Impacts of Earthquakes – Students can further explore the impact of
earthquakes through researching the economical and societal impacts the Top Ten earthquakes had on the communities where they occurred.