Shaking it Up! A Problem-Based Learning Project on Earthquake Disaster Management

By Alana Lund1, Christopher Roemmele2, Lisa Roetker3, Steven Smith1

1. Purdue University 2. West Chester University 3. Lafayette School Corporation: Tecumseh Junior High School

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Units on earthquake education typically develop the topic from a theoretical and investigative perspective. Though this approach helps students understand the mechanisms of events like tornadoes and earthquakes, it misses the connection to the impact these events have on the world. Student engagement and comprehension are deeply enriched by coupling theory with real world applications. We have had success bridging this gap through a lesson that teaches earthquake emergency preparedness and disaster mitigation at a community level. In this lesson, students progress through a problem-based learning puzzle activity which requires them to use multiple analytical approaches to determine which building in a community is most likely to be damaged by an earthquake. The activity is split into three parts, an introductory lesson, the core puzzle activity, and a concluding guided discussion. The introductory lesson introduces students to the concepts of resonance in buildings, the Hassan Index, and indicators of damage in the dynamic response of buildings. The puzzle activity puts the students in the shoes of engineers, asking them to determine which building would be most need to be evacuated in preparation for an earthquake and which would need rescue teams sent to it based on post-earthquake building responses. The concluding discussion focuses on the importance of different perspectives of data analysis and the role of engineers in preparing for and recovering from disasters. In addition to strengthening the students analysis skills and engaging them in an authentic STEM application, the problem-based format of the lesson inspires creativity, perseverance, and communication as students work together toward a common goal.

This resource contains the teaching materials necessary to prepare the lesson. The lesson itself is published with The Science Teacher, vol 85:3, (March 2018). 

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Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  • Alana Lund; Christopher Roemmele; Lisa Roetker; Steven Smith (2017), "Shaking it Up! A Problem-Based Learning Project on Earthquake Disaster Management,"

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