Shake It Upby: Tatiana Gilstrap, Peter Sheldon, and Peggy Schimmoeller

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If scientists know where earthquakes are most likely to occur, then architects and engineers can design safer buildings for such areas and potentially prevent some of the devastating aftereffects. Engineers have met this challenge through the design and use of gigantic shake tables to evaluate the stability of various structures. In this 45-minute lesson and activity, students learn how seismically safe buildings are designed. They also design and test their own buildings on shake tables. Following this lesson, students can analyze their construction and evaluate and improve their original design.

  • Elementary
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Reviews (3)
  • on Fri Jul 11, 2014 12:29 PM

Fifth grade students, building codes, and earthquakes make an interesting combination for learning about the dangers of natural disasters and preparation to minimize the damage as a result of one. This article is a perfect start toward a STEM activity. Students research the building codes in their area. The teacher builds a shake table. Students build their house and test them and evaluate the results. The only thing missing is time to rebuild a better structure to retest and see if the new design improves its survivability

Adah  (San Antonio, TX)
Adah (San Antonio, TX)

  • on Wed Aug 08, 2012 9:52 AM

This article has students building houses out of a selection of materials and then testing them on a shake table made by the teacher or students. There is good background information about earthquakes and detailed instructions on how to make the shake table, but more detailed discussion of the house design is needed.

Betty Paulsell  (Kansas City, MO)
Betty Paulsell (Kansas City, MO)

  • on Wed Apr 20, 2011 7:14 PM

"Shake It Up" outlines a lesson on the effects of earthquakes on buildings for fifth- grade students. The article gives background that should be shared with the students to create background knowledge. Once students understand that they will be constructing houses and then simulating earthquake conditions to see how their houses survive, you can begin. You can make a shake table prior to the lesson, or follow the detailed directions, here, for making one with the students, including safety guidelines. Also included is a list of materials needed for constructing the houses. A complete rubric is included for judging the appearance of the house and the condition of the house after the shaking process. Students should not only learn a lot from this lesson about construction to withstand earthquakes, they should learn how to handle tools and how to enjoy themselves, also.

Allison Cooke
Allison Cooke

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