Lessons & Activities

The Quake-Catcher Network is designed to be an educational tool for describing earthquakes and earthquake science in the classroom. For this purpose, we include a demonstration program called QCNLive for learning using lesson plans. QCNLive is a free program and can be downloaded from this webpage.

1) What is a seismometer

by Jennifer Saltzman. Students will learn that a seismometer detects 3 components of motion and that a seismogram is the record of an earthquake.

2) Introduction to the Quake-Catcher Network and Lab

by Deborah Kane. This activity reviews the concept of acceleration and then introduces students to a sensor that records acceleration. The lab exercise leads the students through several exploratory questions and suggestions and ultimately asks them to consider what this sensor is used for outside of the classroom. This activity requires advance preparation to order the sensors, as noted in the Description and Teaching Materials (below).

3) Magnitude and Intensity Lab

by (Option 1) Deborah Kane and (Option 2) IRIS. This activity describes the differences between an earthquake┬┐s magnitude and intensity and then has students experiment with the Quake-Catcher Network sensor to explore these concepts. Earthquake magnitude is a property of the earthquake itself, and does not change for a given earthquake regardless of where the earthquake is recorded. A measure of intensity describes the ground motion felt at a given location and varies spatially for a given earthquake.

4) Exploring three-component seismic data with accelerometers

by IRIS. In this activity, students will use an accelerometer (iPhone, laptop or USB) to kinesthetically explore the physical 'meaning' of three component seismic data by replicating a seismogram by moving the accelerometer.

5) How 'hard' does the ground shake during an earthquake?

by IRIS (Michael Hubenthal). In this activity, students will use a three-component accelerometer (iPhone, laptop or USB) to examine their assumptions about how 'hard' the ground shakes during an earthquake.

6) FELT earthquake location interactive web-tool:

by Matt Lehmann, Dr. Youwen Ouyang, and Debi Kilb. This activity leads students through picking the travel times of earthquakes, and triangulation of an earthquake. The interactive web-based system is intuitive, with sound effects and everything.

7) Earthquakes and buildings lab

by Dr. Helen Chen, Theresa Johnson, Paul Kim. This activity helps students explore the relationship between ground shaking amplitude measured as acceleration by a sensor and building damage and construction of the building. Students build paper buildings with limited building supplies, and see how well they hold up on a shake table.

These activities were designed to use QCNLive as the main teaching tool.  These activities could supplement classroom instruction that you are already doing.  There are several websites that have some great activities for instruction for all ages.

We welcome your feedback on these activities and other activities that you develop in the classroom.  Please contact Jennifer Saltzman.



Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology Education and Outreach provide a series of very useful teachable moments and activities parallel.

Seismology Education with many many activities for all from Professor Larry Braile at Purdue University

Earthquake Resources for Teachers from the US Geological Survey

Can we predict earthquakes? 6 minute audio interview with a USGS scientist.

Virtual Earthquake - An inquiry-based activity that helps students learn the fundamental concepts about earthquake waves including epicenter local and Richter magnitude.