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Using Students As Teachers

David Burch



An extension activity to facilitate learning about earthquakes by empowering the student to be a "teacher".



Students are encouraged to learn by mentoring younger students. When placed in an environment where the student has greater responsibility they often respond by going above and beyond their normal effort. By placing students in a position where they are responsible for the teaching of a unit on earthquakes, the resulting research will further their understanding of earthquake waves and their effects. The classroom teacher will need to find a willing participant for the student taught unit, and will need to get all paperwork completed and approved by the administration. Classes chosen should be at least 2 grade levels below your own class in order for your own students to get a feeling that they are more mature and can be role models for the class.



A willing classroom teacher to allow students to work with their students PEPP generated seismograms PC Computer Interface for PEPP materials SWAP Software Computer generated printouts from various resources (see the resource list below) Handheld seismometer Shake table Earthquake generator Styrofoam pegs Various posters *Please note many materials used were created at workshops for the PEPP program. More information about these can be found at the IU-PEPP web site or by e-mail to the site.    


Time allowed:

Variable with the unit presented by the teacher and the depth of study. Three to five class periods should be utilized for working on the presentation - research can be completed out of class. One class period is suggested for the student presentations, variable depending on time missed from other classes. Fifteen minute presentations which are followed by hands – on activities would be an acceptable time frame.



After having studied a unit on earthquake wave generation and effects, the students will then create a presentation for a younger class with which the teacher has chosen to work. Presentations should consist of both verbal and visual components, and some allowance should be made for the younger students to work with the hands on materials such as the hand held seismometer. Students will teach younger students using materials they themselves have worked with in class (see the materials list) as well as posters they have designed. Other materials may be provided by the teacher, such as posters from the USGS. Creativity should be encouraged in presentations. For full class participation I would suggest splitting into small groups to work with the younger students for hands-on activities after the group presentation. NOTE: Student work should be checked for accuracy by the classroom teacher before presentations.



Have students do the presentation in your own class before going into another classroom – let them critique themselves for style and accuracy. For grading purposes I would suggest having several methods, including having students assign a grade for style and one for accuracy for each student in the class including their own, worth 35% of the students grade (average the results). The classroom teacher can then assign their own grade for the remaining 30%. This will allow for variations in student grading to be moderated, since students are sometimes harsher critics than teachers.          



This is a very incomplete listing of possible resources, but the list here includes many I use in my own classes.

Indiana Geological Survey

611 N. Walnut Grove, Bloomington, IN 47405



Indiana University PEPP web site:

Princeton PEPP web site:

National Earthquake Information Center:

Interactive TERRAscope Data Viewer

Earthquakes 101 from

Redwood City Public Seismic Network:

An Introduction to The ABC's of Plate Tectonics


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