90 Minutes  |  5th – 12th Grades


Using Northeastern University’s Civil Engineering Earthquake Laboratory, students get a chance to see what an earthquake simulation looks (and feels) like! Students will be introduced to the field of civil engineering and its sub-disciplines. Students will learn how civil engineers build a variety of large scale projects grounded on the infrastructure of the city or area in question.

Students will also learn about the science behind earthquakes and how scientists have developed various techniques to define and measure different types of earthquakes. This will enable students to understand the close relationship between scientists and engineers by learning how seismology (study of earthquakes) has impacted civil engineers’ approach on projects.

After an introduction into building design and earthquake effects, students break into small groups and work with K’NEX pieces to create a structure that will withstand the highest earthquake simulation possible.  After the structures are tested to failure, students can take turns standing on the shake table to get a feel for what it is like to be in the middle of a mild earthquake.

MA Framework Content Standards:
High School: Earth and Space Science:
3.10. Relate Earthquakes and Natural Disasters to Tectonic Plate movements.  3.11. Seismic Data and Earth’s Interior Structure, Earthquake Epicenters. 3.12. Describe Richter Scale

Lesson Plan:
Lesson Plan – Shake Table Demonstration

Shake Table Intro

The Science of Earthquakes