Often we have to teach about phenomenon, like an earthquake, that our students have never experienced. We can read eyewitness accounts, watch videos and share stories – but nothing beats actually feeling the ground move. Some are lucky enough to have a local science center that has an earthquake simulator – but still for many, even that experience is just inaccessible.
However, you can build you very own earthquake simulator right in your very own classroom with nothing more than and small study table and a packet of balloons.
You will also need an area that is clear of all furniture with a smooth floor.
Take the table and flip it upside down. Then blow up balloons about 3/4 full. They all need to be roughly the same size. Then place the balloons under the table. You will need enough balloons so that they cover the entire bottom of the table.
Then, with an adult holding the legs on both ends of the table, have students step lightly onto the center of the table. You will find you can place more than one student easily onto the table without any fear of the balloons popping – in fact I have had six or more teachers standing on the table without any issues.
Then gently shake the table by the legs from side to side. The motion should be ‘jerky’ but not so that a student loses their footing. You can increase the strength of the motion for fun – but always be careful not to make the motion too strong so that a student falls or hurts themselves.
For older students, have them work out a method of measuring the simulated earthquakes. Another extension is to have students build structures using sugar cubes that are placed onto the table and tested for earthquake strength.
Being able to have your own earthquake simulator can really bring the topic alive in your classroom.