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CareerStart lessons: Grade six

LEARN NC was a program of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Education from 1997 – 2013. It provided lesson plans, professional development, and innovative web resources to support teachers, build community, and improve K-12 education in North Carolina. Learn NC is no longer supported by the School of Education – this is a historical archive of their website.

Learning outcomes

Students will evaluate the forces that shape the lithosphere including: crustal plate movement, folding and faulting, deposition, volcanic activity and earthquakes.

Teacher planning

Materials needed

  • Laptop computer
  • Projector
  • Pencil
  • Internet connection
  • Wireless presentation remote (if available)
  • Student handouts:
    • Copies of the “Earthquake Job Information Sheet” for each student. (Copy the information sheet on the front and back of each page.)
    • Problem statement page (Make two copies for each group. Cut out the problems and place on the group tables. You may want to laminate those to use next year.)
  • Career cards (Make one copy and cut out each career. You may want to laminate those to use next year.)
  • Occupational Outlook Handbook published by the U.S. Department of Labor (Note: If the Occupational Outlook Handbook is not available at your school media center or guidance office, please refer to the electronic version on the Bureau of Labor Statistics website. This website is also a great tool for readers who would struggle with a handbook of this size.)
  • Teacher reference page listing pages in the 2004-2005 Occupational Outlook Handbook that contain information about earthquake-related careers

Time required for lesson

Approximately 140 minutes


  1. Set up the projector and computer at the front of the room. (5 min.)
  2. Access the Internet, and go to the Exploratorium website’s “Faultline: Seismic Science at the Epicenter“. Navigate the site to explore earthquakes, plate tectonics, devastating earthquakes from the past and earthquake safety. Be sure to read about plate tectonics, faults, waves, and measurements under “Quake Basics.”
    (12 min.)
  3. Use the wireless presentation remote to discuss earthquakes, plate tectonics, crustal plate movement and other areas of interest from the website. (50 min.)
  4. On the second day of the lesson, set up the computer and website again to review prior knowledge from the slide show. (5 min.)
  5. Address any questions from the first day of the lesson. (5 min.)
  6. Arrange students in groups of four or five. (2 min.)
  7. Pass out the student handouts. Give one “Earthquake Job Information Sheet” (copied front and back) to each student. Give one problem statement page to each pair of students. (2 min.)
  8. Read the problem statement to the class. (1 min.)
  9. Place two career cards on each table (see “Materials Needed” above.) Instruct the students to discuss how the career cards provided relate to the earthquake problem statement. (5 min.)
  10. Have the students complete both sides of the earthquake job information sheet considering the problem statement and their role in their jobs. (20 min.)
  11. When time is up, have each group present to the class their job information based on the earthquake problem. (30 min.)
  12. Have the students present their jobs relating to the earthquake devastation using a loud public speaking voice. Instruct the audience to remain quiet and listen while other groups present.

Supplemental information

Helpful books:

Seymour Simon, Earthquakes. New York: Morrow Junior Books, 1991.


Optional resources for more information on the topics covered in this lesson

Virtual Courseware: Earthquake
This activity illustrates how seismic waves are used to determine the magnitude of an earthquake and to locate its epicenter.
Putting Down Roots in Earthquake Country
This comprehensive handbook from the Southern California Earthquake Center explains the science of earthquakes and preparedness. Annually updated, it also discusses the infrastructures and facilities that are the key to recovery.
Damage Control: Engineering
Exploratorium: Faultline explains that the extent of an earthquake’s damage depends on the design of a city’s buildings and bridges. Includes a video.
Damage Control: Retrofitting
Exploratorium: Faultline explores the process of strengthening freeways against the forces of earthquakes.
Building Big: Bridges
PBS explains the basic bridge types and the forces, loads, materials, and shapes that factor into their strength. Includes information on related careers and a matching test of engineering skills to build the right bridge in the right location.

North Carolina curriculum alignment

Science (2005)

Grade 6

  • Goal 3: The learner will build an understanding of the geological cycles, forces, processes, and agents which shape the lithosphere.
    • Objective 3.01: Evaluate the forces that shape the lithosphere including:
      • Crustal plate movement.
      • Folding and faulting.
      • Deposition.
      • Volcanic Activity.
      • Earthquakes.
    • Objective 3.02: Examine earthquake and volcano patterns.

  • North Carolina Essential Standards
    • Science (2010)
      • Grade 6

        • 6.E.2 Understand the structure of the earth and how interactions of constructive and destructive forces have resulted in changes in the surface of the Earth over time and the effects of the lithosphere on humans. 6.E.2.1 Summarize the structure of the earth,...