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Upper School Corner - Mrs. McKenna Harkins

Thursday, 3 March, 2016 - 11:09 am

 What’s Going On Under Our Feet?

Was that an earthquake?? With the San Andreas Fault right in our backyard, this question in not uncommon to Southern Californians. In the Middle School Science Department, I am working to equip students to not only answer this question, but understand the science behind. In an effort to provide students with a comprehensive and in-depth experience related to earthquakes, the Math and Science Department is pleased to announce that we have officially started our next project! This project is geared towards preparing students to perform a thorough analysis of regions affected by earthquakes. In science, students will be completing an informative brochure, keeping a log of seismic activity around the world, building their own seismograph, and, finally, constructing a 3-dimensional tower that will have to withstand a powerful earthquake simulation!

To begin, students first visited the Caltech Seismological Lab to gain first hand experience with how seismologists gather, interpret, and utilize seismic data around the world. Next, students have built their own seismographs in class to simulate how seismometers record seismic waves during an earthquake. Students have also mapped out the various plate boundaries around the world and identified the type of movement at each. After researching both the 10 biggest earthquakes and the 10 most destructive, students compared these two lists to find overlapping data. Surprisingly, many of the most devastating earthquakes were not necessarily the biggest. This prompted students to ask the question, Why are some earthquakes more damaging than others?

In an effort to answer this question, students have begun learning about various building materials and structural designs that earthquake-prone regions all over the world implement in their construction. Students are currently working on their own design draft to be submitted before starting on construction. Students will have three weeks to build, test, and modify the structure of their buildings to ensure that their tower will withstand a powerful earthquake. Throughout this time, students will also be learning about the various scales used to measure earthquakes, such as the Richter Scale and the Modified Mercalli Scale, and earthquake safety. Our goal is to empower students to feel confident about how to feel safe and prepared for an earthquake. We look forward to building this class of structural engineers and will be sure to keep you updated on their progress!


Mrs. McKenna Harkins

Upper School Science Teacher

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