K-12 Teaching and Learning From the UNC School of Education

Important Announcement about Online Courses and LEARN NC.

Important Message about LEARN NC

LEARN NC is evaluating its role in the current online education environment as it relates directly to the mission of UNC-Chapel Hill School of Education (UNC-CH SOE). We plan to look at our ability to facilitate the transmission of the best research coming out of UNC-CH SOE and other campus partners to support classroom teachers across North Carolina. We will begin by evaluating our existing faculty and student involvement with various NC public schools to determine what might be useful to share with you.

Don’t worry! The lesson plans, articles, and textbooks you use and love aren’t going away. They are simply being moved into the new LEARN NC Digital Archive. While we are moving away from a focus on publishing, we know it’s important that educators have access to these kinds of resources. These resources will be preserved on our website for the foreseeable future. That said, we’re directing our resources into our newest efforts, so we won’t be adding to the archive or updating its contents. This means that as the North Carolina Standard Course of Study changes in the future, we won’t be re-aligning resources. Our full-text and tag searches should make it possible for you to find exactly what you need, regardless of standards alignment.

Learn more

Related pages

  • Catawba Science Center: Students will enjoy visiting the Catawba Science Center, a hands-on museum, where learning is fun!
  • Rocks really rock! A lesson on the classification of rocks: This lesson will help students classify various rocks according to specified criteria. It will also help students classify a given rock using selected mineral identification tests. Students will use a graphic organizer to display their findings.
  • Building a stratovolcano: Students will review the three types of volcanoes. Students will construct a stratovolcano and determine the composition of each type of volcano. Students will research examples of stratovolcanoes using internet resources.

Related topics


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Learning outcomes

Students will:

  • Define key concepts and terms associated with earthquakes.
  • Recognize the cause and effect relationships present in nature.
  • Make predictions and hypotheses.
  • Recognize the value of historical scientific information.
  • Build a model.
  • Enjoy a hands-on learning experience.
  • Use computers as tools for accessing information.

Teacher planning

Time required for lesson

2 hours


Materials for each student:

  • one eleven-by-eight-inch piece of cardboard (cut in half)
  • one larger piece of cardboard to serve as platform (for transport)
  • scissors
  • four cups of dirt
  • water to mix with dirt
  • several small twigs
  • earthquake research sheet/assessment

Technology resources

  • computer with internet access


  • Discussion of various natural disasters around the globe.
  • Discuss with students what they already know about earthquakes and determine what they want to learn more about.
  • Visit seismograph at the North Carolina Museum of Life and Science.


  1. Create a student generated list of vocabulary terms.
  2. Provide opportunities for students to define vocabulary and/or teacher defines unfamiliar terms.
  3. If possible, take students outdoors to collect dirt and twigs. Otherwise, pass out materials to students.
  4. Mix dirt and water to form mud. Spread mud over two pieces of cardboard lying side by side (placed on top of larger piece of cardboard to make transport possible). Form a landscape, valleys and hills. Place twigs to represent trees.
  5. Let dry overnight.
  6. Review of vocabulary terms.
  7. Conduct class discussion of predictions and hypotheses, “What will happen to the models when simulated earthquake or tremors occur?” Include concepts of building and landscape changes and safety.
  8. Divide class into groups. Assign one group to simulate vertical plate movement and the other to simulate horizontal plate movement. During their simulated earthquakes individual students can be assigned different numbers of plate movements to make, as well as differing amounts of force to apply to their plate movements.
  9. Facilitate class discussion. Students report observed differences and similarities in plate movement damage. Discuss the importance of historical scientific knowledge and implications for changes in building design and safety planning.
  10. Students visit relevant earthquake-related websites to answer earthquake questions.


  • oral answers/predictions/inferences from class discussions of vocabulary and key concepts
  • observations of individual student participation in model activity
  • completion of earthquake questions/research

Supplemental information


The North Carolina Museum of Life and Science is located at 433 Murray Avenue between Duke Street and Roxboro Road in Durham. Phone number: 919-220-5429. Call ahead to make reservations for student groups.

  • 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,...

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.