Earthquakes Unit Plan

Instructor: Shanna Fox

Shanna has been an educator for 20 years and earned her Master of Education degree in 2017. She enjoys using her experience to provide engaging resources for other teachers.

Shake things up in your middle school classroom with this interactive earthquake unit! Introduce the topic within a natural disaster framework, build knowledge with hands-on activities and games, explore advanced concepts, and complete projects.


Teaching an earthquake unit gives you an opportunity to explore scientific concepts, historical events, and disaster preparedness with your middle school students. This unit starts with contextualizing earthquakes in a larger framework of natural disasters. Then, students are guided through a few connected concepts, including primary and secondary waves and the Richter scale. Students have a chance to demonstrate their knowledge through hands-on and artistic project options.

In addition, students can participate in an extension that explores tsunamis as an associated natural disaster. Alternatively, you can add a research element by engaging students in a historical study of earthquakes on the Ring of Fire. Looking at content from the larger framework to the main elements and ending with an independent demonstration of knowledge helps make learning accessible for all students.

Concept Framework

Build a conceptual framework for your earthquake unit by kicking it off with this Natural Disasters Lesson Plan. If you have students who need additional academic support, consider differentiating with this ESL Natural Disasters Lesson Plan. Students can collect information on a graphic organizer or create posters about what they've learned. They can also complete something as simple as a summary paragraph about natural disasters.

Build in time for these Natural Disaster Activities & Games to keep students moving and interacting with one another as they learn. This Preparing for Natural Disasters Lesson Plan can also help, and as a follow-up, students can create a family plan of action for facing a natural disaster common in your area.

Earthquake Basics

Launch into the core of the unit with this Earthquake Lesson Plan that provides an extensive exploration of concepts and vocabulary related to earthquakes. Students will also have a chance to research an earthquake event. Engage students in these Earthquake Activities & Games to help them synthesize and apply their learning thus far.

Dive into the concept of seismic waves with this straightforward P & S Waves Lesson Plan about primary and secondary waves. When this lesson is completed, students will understand earthquakes on a deeper level. For advanced learners, differentiate by utilizing portions of this complex and comprehensive Seismic Waves Lesson Plan.

Finish up this unit segment with this Richter Scale Lesson Plan so students can understand how to identify the strength of an earthquake. Explore some examples of different earthquakes that represent various levels on the Richter scale. This allows students to gain a complete understanding of what the measurement system looks like in real life.

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