Sunday, January 17, 2010

Jell-O, and Graham Cracker Earthquakes - Sunday Science

Occasionally, I like to pull our studies out the headlines, and this week, that means earthquakes.

There's room for a full cross-curricular study. The list below, is a partial hodge-podge of thoughts, I've been putting together toward a unit study.

Geography: Locating the recent earthquakes on a world map (Caracas, Venezuela / Eureka, California / Oklahoma City, Oklahoma / Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and so on).

Check out a map of earthquake zones, such as this map of the US from FEMA.

Social Studies: Discuss the role of humanitarian, and government organizations in providing aid to earthquake victims - visiting websites such as,, or

Contrast the role of government, and local response in the current situation in Haiti, verses the 2008 earthquake in China.

Discuss our personal obligations to victims of a crisis, such as the earthquake in Haiti, when we live far away.

Health: Look into sanitation, and health concerns that follow a major earthquake (clean water, access to food, and medical supplies, etc.) - Both FEMA, and the Red Cross offer child friendly information about earthquake kits, and safety advice, such as Drop, Cover, and Hang On.

Bible: Look up incidents of earthquakes mentioned in the Bible, like I King 19:11, Isaiah 29:6, Ezekiel 38:19, Amos 1:1, Matthew 24:7, Matthew 28:2, Acts 16:26, and Revelation 6:12 (to name a few).

But for today, we're focusing in on science, for the Science Sunday link up at Adventures in Mommydom.

We picked two activities, one from FEMA, and one from the MadSci Network.

For the FEMA activity, we built sugar cube structures on top of plastic wrap, covered Jell-O.

By tapping the sides of the pan, we were able to learn about how buildings are effected by waves passing through the ground, and how the direction of the waves, changes the effect on a building.

For the MadSci Network activity, we used graham crackers to investigate the tension, that builds between crust plates before an earthquake, and the damage it causes. (you can click the MadSci link above, for the instructions, and explanations for this activity)

Finally, we watched a short, animated, earthquake video from BrainPop (as of today, it can be accessed for free, but BrainPop is a subscription site, that rotates which videos can be viewed free of charge. They do offer a free trial, that allows you total access for a few days, if you haven't tried it before).

There are a number of other earthquake activities for kids to try (including these from the Exploratorium), but right now, we're going to enjoy a snack of Jell-O, and somewhat crumbled graham crackers, and then it should be nap time.

For more kid science activities, check out this week's Science Sunday link up, at Adventures in Mommydom.

It's great to be a homeschooler.


Nicole {tired, need sleep} said...

These are amazing activities! I think even my little 3 year old would enjoy learning about earthquakes using these ideas (of course it wouldn't be as in depth of a discussion as I'm sure you had with your older children). I'm not sure how young your youngest is, but how do you talk about earthquakes with very small children and not worry or scare them? This is something I've been struggling with lately... wanting to raise an awareness of the plights of others without causing undue worry in a small child. Anyway, thanks for such a great post! :)

Natalie PlanetSmarty said...

We always live with an awareness that "A Big One" might strike our area one day. We had a series of small shakes recently. I think I am going to hold off on earthquakes for a while - this topic might cause an undue anxiety here. But the jello experiment is pretty amazing, and as always you have great links.

An Almost Unschooling Mom said...

Nicole - My youngest is 3. We haven't had an earthquake here, in her lifetime, though we're close enough to Yellowstone, we do get them from time to time. I try to emphasis safety, and faith, when we talk about these sorts of things.

And, knowing that dr's and workers, are trying to help the people who are hurt, seems to be reassuring to the kids.

Of course, when it comes to Jell-O, and sugar cubes, there's not too much to be afraid of :)

April Mitchell said...

Great activities and a perfect theme!

Ticia said...

Both of those would be popular here because anything with food goes over well.
I'd never thought to do this with jello, I'd always seen stuff like that done with sand or other things.
And anything done with sugar cubes is an instant hit.