Earthquakes in the classroom

Francesca Cifelli

Università degli Studi di Roma TRE, Rome, Italy

To prevent population against seismic risk, people must know where earthquakes take places, when earthquakes occur and how much is the released energy. In Italy, many people seem not to be aware of the seismic risk. This ‘insensibility’ mainly derives from the lack of education to the knowledge of the territory where citizens live. The only way forward is to educate new generations to a deep awareness of risk. This task can be reached effectively only by school, which is the best place for the growth and training of young people destined to occupy different positions in adulthood, including decision makers in society. University may play as well a fundamental role in the education on the awareness of the territory and prevention, starting from sensitization of young people to local territorial realities. That is in order to transform part of them into conscientious citizens able to work for the good of the community through the active protection of the territory. Laboratories in teaching Earth Sciences are a fundamental in the learning process, since practical activities allow the ‘visualization’ of natural phenomena without resorting to abstraction. The seismo-box is an educational kit that combines knowledge and know-how, with three main objectives

1) to stimulate the students, intended as future citizens, to the knowledge of earthquake as a natural phenomenon, and in particular to the awareness of the consequences that an earthquake may have in relation to the sub-surface geology and the type and quality of buildings in the areas most affected by earthquakes;

2) to stimulate students to practical laboratory activities, also through the creation of experimental devices;

3) to promote in students the acquisition of methodological/didactic skills in the field of dissemination of scientific culture.

The idea of proposing the ‘Seismo-box’ Educational Kit in school came from François Tilquin, a French teacher inventor of this educational kit 

The experiments proposed in the seismo-box educational kit are of two types (Fig. 1):

1) a first set of experiments is dedicated to the physical understanding of an earthquake. Experiences such us the origin of an earthquake, the propagation of seismic waves and their recording, help students to visualize earthquakes and identify them as natural and unavoidable phenomena.

2) the second set of experiments is dedicated to the effects of an earthquake, depending on the type of construction and the subsurface geology on which the buildings are located.

Figure 1 – Some examples of experiments we can do with seismo-box.