Students simulate earthquake effects after building a shake table. 

RAFT, Resource Area For Teaching, is a nonprofit organization located near the epicenter of the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, an event that most adults from the area remember vividly, but that today’s students have only heard about. Given the recent South Napa earthquake and the 25th anniversary of Loma Prieta, many organizations and educators are dedicating more time to educate students about faults, safety procedures, and ways to prevent earthquake damage.

RAFT, an expert in hands-on education, created free instructional guides for any educator to prepare an engaging activity to bring earthquake education to life. To understand the causes of earthquakes, students can use foam to model the three main types of faults. To simulate earthquake effects, students can build a shake table using binder covers, rubber bands, balls, and bottle caps or go more advanced with a motorized version. A new activity, Brace Yourself, allows students to practice structural engineering through a variety of bracing techniques. These activities use common, low-cost materials to help students understand the reason earthquakes happen, simulate their effects, and even test structures’ resistance to intense shaking.

The RAFT Shake Table activity will be used at San Jose Public Libraries as part of a larger partnership with The Tech Museum’s Tech Challenge. This year’s challenge, Seismic Engineering in Action, empowers students in grades 4-12 to apply knowledge to generate practical engineering solutions to address the dangers of earthquakes. Community members will be able to experiment with the preassembled kits to simulate an earthquake and test out different structures in preparation for the April 2015 challenge.

Participating San Jose Public Libraries:
Alum Rock
Dr. Martin Luther King
Educational Park
Seven Trees
Tully Community

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