Earthquake Proof Buildings Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Suzanne Rose

Suzanne has taught all levels PK-graduate school and has a PhD in Instructional Systems Design. She currently teachers literacy courses to preservice and inservice teachers.

Have you ever been in an earthquake? The earth shakes everything, including buildings. Why do some buildings stay up but others don't? In this lesson, you will learn about ways that buildings can be made to help them survive earthquakes.

Earthquakes

Did you know that the surface of the earth, called the crust, is always moving? Earth's crust is made up of large pieces of rock, called plates. These plates move very slowly—about as fast as your fingernails grow. When the edges of the plates rub together or bump into each other, earthquakes can happen. The movements of the plates make cracks, or faults in the earth's crust. Earthquakes are more likely to happen near these faults.

Faults in the Earth
fault

When rocks near a fault break, energy is sent out in waves. This energy moves through the rocks, making them move from side to side. This makes the earth move during an earthquake. Have you ever thrown a rock into water and seen the ripples that come out? These ripples move through the water, in the same way that the waves from an earthquake move through the ground.

How Earthquakes Impact Buildings

When waves move through rocks, anything on top of the rocks is moved. If you're standing on the rocks when the waves move through them, you'll feel yourself move from side to side, the same way the rocks are moving. It might feel as if you are standing on a bowl of gelatin! The same thing happens when the waves pass through the ground under buildings. The buildings move from side to side, which can make them collapse.

Making Buildings Earthquake-Resistant

Scientists are working on ways to make buildings more earthquake-resistant so that they won't completely collapse in an earthquake—buildings might be damaged, but won't completely fall down.

Earthquake-resistant buildings have actually been around for a long time! Some buildings of the Ancient Greeks, built over 2500 years ago, are still standing, even though they have survived many earthquakes. But, how?

Columns made of stone pieces
temple

Scientists researching the Parthenon and other ancient buildings have discovered that the Greeks knew how to build earthquake-resistant buildings thousands of years ago! Although the Parthenon looks as if it's made from large slabs of stone, it's actually made from smaller blocks attached together with iron bars. The columns of the Parthenon are also made from smaller pieces of stone, attached together like the bones in your spine. When waves hit them, the blocks move with the waves so they don't collapse! Scientists used these ideas to help make buildings of today earthquake-resistant.

Making Today's Buildings Earthquake-Resistant

We know that buildings are damaged because earthquake waves make them move from side-to-side, so scientists, inspired by the ancient Greeks, developed ways to keep buildings from falling when they move this way. Some ways that buildings can be made earthquake-resistant are:

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