Earthquakes Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Anna Reinking

Anni taught elementary school for eight years and is currently teaching college. She received her Ed.D. in Curriculum and Instruction.

Did you know the Earth can feel stressed? When it feels too much stress it sometimes shakes, causing what is known as an earthquake. In this lesson we will discuss these natural disasters, including what an earthquake is, how an earthquake occurs, and other interesting facts about earthquakes.


The Earth has many interesting natural disasters, one of which is earthquakes. Earthquakes are a violent shaking of the ground, which is sudden and can cause damage. One way to understand earthquakes is to think of it as a way for the earth to release some stress.

Stress? What does the Earth have to be stressed about? Well, this isn't the type of stress people feel when they are worried, this is the type of stress when there's extreme pressure that needs to be released. In the Earth, the pressure or stress can occur where the tectonic plates of the earth meet.

Tectonic Plates

Tectonic plates are plates that make up the Earth's surface.

Tectonic Plates
tectonic plates

There are numerous tectonic plates that fit together like a puzzle, and they float and move, sometimes causing fractures or pressure in the Earth's surface. When there's pressure, earthquakes can occur. Just as if you and a friend were holding a wishbone, when you both start to pull on either end of the wishbone, the middle starts to have pressure or stress. Eventually there's enough stress on the middle of the wishbone that it breaks. If that were a plate on the Earth's surface, the breaking would be an earthquake, which would release energy and waves throughout the Earth's surface.

Why do the plates continue to cause earthquakes? Well, the plates are continuously moving and shifting in different directions and at different speeds. When the plates bump into one another or scrape along the side they cause stress that eventually needs to be released.

However, sometimes the tectonic plates don't run into each other but rather move away from each other, causing a fault. This is when there's a crack in the Earth's surface.

Fault Example
fault line

Measuring Earthquakes

When earthquakes occur, scientists like to measure how much force the earthquake had in order to understand and investigate the Earth even more. The instrument they use is called a seismograph.


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