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Middle and High School Natural Hazards

Teaching Resources for Middle and High School – Natural Hazards

Learning Page for USGS Earthquake Hazards- Background Information
The best starting point for education links related to USGS earthquake science. There are separate sections for Educators and Kids, plus animations, photos, FAQs, and earthquake basics. Use the top menu to navigate to earthquake data and a realtime earthquake map.

Earthquake Science Explained: Ten Short Articles for Students, Parents, and Families- Background Information
A series of short articles for students, teachers, and parents originally published as a weekly newspaper feature. Concepts introduced in each feature are designed to address state and national science education standards. Written by USGS scientists, the articles go beyond traditional textbook information to discuss state-of-the-art thinking and technology that we use today.   

Bigger Faults Make Bigger Earthquakes- Activity
Use string or rope to demonstrate relationships between the length of a fault and the earthquakes that occur along it.

Plate Tectonics- Activity
These lessons are based on Alfred Wegener's pioneering studies that demonstrated that the scattered distribution of certain fossil plants and animals on present–day, widely separated continents would form coherent patterns if the continents are rejoined as the pre–existing supercontinent Gondwanaland. 

Learn about Earthquake Hazards - Maps and lessons
Seismic hazard maps and related learning about hazards  

Quaternary Faults and Fold Database of the United States- Background Information
This Web site contains information on faults and associated folds in the United States that are believed to be sources of M>6 earthquakes during the Quaternary (the past 1,600,000 years). Maps of these geologic structures are linked to detailed descriptions and references. Many of the faults described in this database are in California.   

Earthquake Summary Posters- Posters
View and download posters that provide detailed information and a brief discussion about large earthquakes soon after they occur. Images include the epicentral area, plate tectonic environment, earthquake history, and generalized seismic hazard of the region. The posters serve as a one-stop-shop for information about large earthquakes that have occurred since 2002.

The Great Alaska Earthquake and Tsunami of March 27, 1964- Background Information
Explore numerous resources created for the 50th anniversary of the second largest earthquake ever recorded and the tsunami that it created. Watch videos, animations, archival film, and a public lecture; read short fact sheets and summaries; and delve into historical photographs. An interactive "story map" of 1964 Anchorage is an especially good way to engage students.

Putting Down Roots In Earthquake Country- Background Information
Booklets written for the general public to explain everything that residents need to know about earthquakes in their area: Where are the faults and what are the dangers? Why is it important to prepare? How do I prepare for a significant earthquake?

How to Read a Seismogram- Video
Ever wonder how to read the data on a USGS seismogram? Learn the basics in a 4-minute video tutorial. Practice with real-time seismogram displays, and check out this visualization of a shaking building compared to the siesmogram. [Note: the terms "seismogram", "heliplot", and "webicorder" are essentially interchangeable]

Earthquake Probability Map for San Francisco Bay Area and for all of California.- Maps
Maps showing the probability of significant earthquakes on each of the major faults.

The San Andreas Fault- Background Information
This general interest publication describes the San Andreas Fault system and its history of earthquakes.

Earthquakes In and Near the Northeastern United States, 1638-1998- Map
This thematic map documents earthquake activity in the northeastern United States from the time of the first settlers. A companion fact sheet is also available for download.

New Madrid Earthquakes of 1811-1812- Background Information
Several of the largest historical earthquakes to strike the continental U.S. occurred in the winter of 1811-1812 along the New Madrid Seismic Zone, which stretches from just west of Memphis, Tennessee into southern Illinois. Download and print the Bicentennial of the 1811-1812 New Madrid Earthquake Sequence poster, and learn more about earthquakes in the central United States with the fact sheet Earthquake Hazard in the Heart of the Homeland.

Tabletop Earthquakes- Activity
Construct a simple earthquake machine to demonstrate the principles of seismology. Includes supporting instructional material. 

Significant Floods in the United States During the 20th Century - USGS Measures a Century of Floods- Background Information
During the 20th century, floods were the number-one natural disaster in the United States in terms of the number of lives lost and property damage. This 4-page fact sheet briefly describes the different types of floods and lists the 32 most significant floods during the 20th century.

What is a 100-Year Flood?- Background Information
The term "100-year flood" is part of the national lexicon, but is often a source of confusion. Download and/or print this free poster that attempts to explain the concept, probabilistic nature, and inherent uncertainties of the "100-year flood" to the layman. Print full-size at 44" x 38" or on 11" x 17" paper.

Size and Occurrence of Floods- Activity
Students use macaroni or beans to calculate the statistics of floor recurrence (see back side of poster).

USGS FAQs on Floods and Droughts- Background Information
Frequently Asked Questions about floods and droughts.

Tsunamis & Earthquakes- Background Information
The best starting point for information about tsunamis. Follow links to basic information and an amazing list of animations and simulations.

The Orphan Tsunami of 1700—Japanese Clues to a Parent Earthquake in North America- Background Information
Follow along with scientists as they discover clues about a mysterious tsunami that struck Japan in 1700. Could it have originated from a large earthquake in North America? Learn how we use the past to help warn of future hazards. Also watch an archived public lecture about this tsunami.

USGS Landslide Hazards Program - Learning and Education- Background Information
The best starting point for Landslide information. Quick links to "Landslides 101", photos, glossary, hazards, and preparedness.

Landslide Types and Processes- Background Information
This four-page fact sheet provides a brief introduction to types of landslides and mass movement associated with gravity and stream floods.

The Landslide Handbook—A Guide to Understanding Landslides- Background Information and Photos
What is a landslide? Where do they occur? What causes them? How are they monitored? How can they be prevented? All these questions are answered in this 129-page publication. Written for a general audience, it is heavily illustrated with diagrams and photographs.

Volcano Hazards Web Site- Background Information
The starting point for all USGS volcano science. Interact with a real-time status map of U.S. volcanoes and follow links to a Resource Page for Educators, photos, web cams, volcano lists and information, and simple descriptions of volcano hazards. For region-specific information, explore the USGS websites for:

Living with a Volcano in your Backyard- Activities
A three-unit guide that provides science content and inquiry-based activities about volcanoes of the Cascade Range for middle-school students, with an emphasis on Mount Ranier. Includes more than 30 activities, a field guide, glossary, and supplementary information.

Geologic Hazards at Volcanoes- Poster
Download a pdf file of this 18"x27" poster showing a diagram of a cut-away volcano and the various hazards associated with volcanoes either during or between eruptions. The poster can also be ordered for free through the USGS Store ($5.00 handling fee). Product number 208285.

Eruptions in the Cascade Range During the Past 4,000 Years- Poster
Download a pdf file of this 20" x 24" poster showing a timeline of eruptions in the Cascade Range. The poster can also be ordered for free through the USGS Store ($5.00 handling fee). Product number 208284.

Mount St. Helens, 1980 to Now- Background Information
On May 18, 1980, Mount St. Helens Volcano exploded violently, causing the worst volcanic disaster in the history of the United States. The right-side menu has links to six downloadable (MP4) video clips about the 1980 eruption, volcano monitoring, and volcanic processes. Download and print a poster: 

30 Cool Facts about Mount St. Helens (free through the USGS Store).- Background Information

Alaska Volcanoes Guidebook for Teachers- Background Information
Over a third of Alaska's 140 volcanoes have been active in the last 300 years. This online publication has chapters covering the tectonic setting, rocks, eruption styles, landforms, community impact, effect on climate, and monitoring of Alaska's volcanoes. Each chapter has 3-4 detailed classroom activities for grades 6-12 and many supplemental materials. Many of these activities can be applied to volcanoes in other locations!

Eruptions of Hawaiian Volcanoes - Past, Present and Future- Background Information and Photos
Written for a general audience and richly illustrated with diagrams and photographs, this report describes the eruptive history of two of Hawai'i's active volcanoes, Kilauea and Mauna Loa.

Volcanic Ash- Background Information
What is volcanic ash? How does it affect agriculture, transportation, communications, water supplies, and human health? Learn all this and more at the USGS Volcanic Ash Web site.

Yes! Yellowstone is a Volcano- Videos
The USGS Scientist-in-Charge of the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory answers basic questions about Yellowstone in three online videos, each lasting about seven minutes. The video shows an excerpt of our Caldera Demonstration Model, which can be reenacted in the classroom.

GeoMAC- Background Information
Use this interactive map to view the locations and boundaries of past and present wildfires.