Inquiry Lesson Earth Science –Earthquakes, How likely is it that the New Madrid Event of 1811-1812 will be repeated?

Teacher Planning

Grade Level: High School 9 - 12

Indiana State Science Standards:

·         Earth and Space Science – Standard 1.23 – The Principles of Earth and Space Science – Processes That Shape The Earth - Students explain motions, transformations, and locations of materials in the Earth’s lithosphere and interior.

·         Earth and Space Science – Standard 1.25 - The Principles of Earth and Space Science – Processes That Shape The Earth – Investigate and discuss the origin of various landforms, such as mountains and rivers and how they affect and are affected by human activities.

Indianapolis Public Schools Science Standards:

·         Unifying Concepts and Processes – Standard 1.1 – Unifying Themes – The themes of systems, models, Constancy and Change, Evolution and Equilibrium, and Form and Function are fundamental to understanding Science and the interrelatedness of the discipline.

·         Science as Inquiry – Standard 2,1 – Abilities – Science Inquiry involves identifying, guiding, questions and concepts, designing, conducting and communicating; formulating and revising models, recognizing and analyzing alternative explanations and models.

·         Science as Inquiry – Standard 2.2 – Understanding Scientific Concept – Inquiry enhances the comprehension of the world.

·         Earth and Space Science Standard 2 – Students will develop and understanding of energy in the Earth system, geochemical cycles; origin and evolution of the earth system, and origin and evolution of the universe.

·         Earth and Space Science - Standard 5.2 – Geochemical Cycles – The Earth is a system containing essentially a fixed amount of each stable chemical atom or element.

·         Science in Personal and Social Perspective – Standard 7.3 – Natural Resources - Natural Resources are essential for providing the daily needs of people. Resources are unevenly distributed around the world and some are in short supply.

·         Science in Personal and Social Perspective – Standard 7.5 – Natural and Human Induced Hazards – Human activities can induce potential hazards. Assessing the degree of risk allows appropriate responses.

Indianapolis Public Schools Essential Skills: Students will

·         understand the present Earth and universe are a culmination of geological changeover time

·         will identify and pose meaningful and answerable scientific questions

·         formulate and test working hypotheses, choosing procedures appropriate for use in the laboratory or fieldwork

·         selecting appropriate instruments, sources (including and electronic data base) to obtain relevant information

·         observe and describe observations  accurately using appropriate language and precision

·         present findings to peer

·         communicate and defend an argument

·         formulate explanations to accommodate known phenomena and principles

·         construct and revise scientific explanations and models using logic and evidence

·         translate data into tables and graphs

·         interpret data presented in tables and graphs

·         select and use reference materials from a variety of sources (including an electronic data base) to obtain relevant information

·         explain motion and transformation of materials and where they occur in the Earth’s lithosphere and interior

·         describe how plates may move, push together, pull apart or subduct to produce earthquakes, volcanoes, ocean floor creation, island transformations, mountain building, and seafloor spreading

·         relate how the slow movement of material within the Earth results from heat flowing out from the deep interior and the actions of gravitational forces on regions of different densities

·         identify natural earth hazard sand the regions in which the most often occur (Pacific Ring of Fire, flood plains, etc.)

Objectives: The student will . . .

·         work collaboratively to carry out their investigation

·         collect data appropriate to their investigation

·         organize data in charts or graphs to use in a presentation

·         identify the factors that can predict the likelihood of a serious earthquake (magnitude 8.0 or greater) or new volcano appearing on the North American continent


·         access to books containing historical accounts of earthquakes and volcanoes

·         access to internet for research

·         selected web sites providing data on earthquakes and volcanoes

·         phone access to university experts

·         poster board with assorted markers, crayons and colored pencils

·         access to PowerPoint program

·         access to Excel and Word

·         information sheets on

ü      “How to use PowerPoint”

ü      “How to use a Search Engine”

ü      “How to write a bibliography”

ü      “How to create a data table and graph using Excel”

ü      “How to create a data table and graph using Word”

Lesson Procedures


Start your discussion with following statements: “The Earth experiences very violent motions on a daily basis in different locations? Have you seen the movies Volcano, Dante’s Peak or any earthquake disaster movie?” Students will then view selected 5-minute clips of the following movies: Dante’s Peak, Armageddon, Volcano, Deep Impact, and other natural disaster movies. After viewing selected video clips continue discussion with the following: “What are the chances that a new volcano, earthquake or some other earth motion disaster could occur anywhere near Indianapolis?”


·         Create a procedure that would allow you to determine where a new volcano or a serious (magnitude 8.0 or greater) earthquake might someday appear anywhere on the North American continent.

·         Follow your procedure. Collect and organize relevant data and information. Keep track of any new questions that arise during your investigation.

·         Arrive at a conclusion based on the results of your procedure.

·         Create a PowerPoint, or poster presentation that best illustrates and justifies your conclusion. Presentation must contain the following:

Ø      original question

Ø      your procedure

Ø      questions raised by your investigation

Ø      data collected, presented in an organized manner

Ø      conclusion, what did you discover

Ø      answer to original question

Ø      bibliography - sources for your data/information


·         Groups will present findings and discuss collective understanding of factors involved in the creation of an earthquake and/or volcano.

·         Groups will describe their procedure and discuss how it helped them to determine the likelihood of a serious earthquake (magnitude 8.0 or greater) or new volcano appearing on the North American continent.

·         Did students collect sufficient data to support their conclusion? Did any new questions arise during their investigation?

·         What other questions might students want to investigation?

Application: Chose one of the following

·         Identify careers that could use the information from this activity. Explain how each career would use the information and why they would find it important in their work.

·         Use the information collected to identify a location within the continental United States that would be safe from volcanic formation and any earthquake damage, justify your selection.

·         Explain how you would use this information to encourage individuals to prepare an awareness video for the general public


·        Embedded assessment

ü      students ability to work collaboratively

ü      students ability to use technology

·        Performance assessment

ü      students ability select appropriate data

ü      students ability to identify factors that precipitate the occurrence of volcanoes and/or severe earthquakes (magnitude 8.0 or greater)

·        Content assessment

ü      students explanations of factors that precipitate the occurrence of volcanoes and/or severe earthquakes (magnitude 8.0 or greater)

ü      ability of students to apply their new understanding to a new situation