Talking to Your Children About Earthquakes: Resources & Links

August 23, 2011 4 Comments »

This afternoon at 1:51 pm a 5.8 earthquake with an epicenter in Virginia- between Charlottesville and Richmond- shook the entire East Coast.  The rumbling from the ground was reported to be the second most powerful earthquake in Virginia’s history.  Online friends from as far south as North Carolina into Toronto felt the earth move underneath them.
An earthquake is a hard concept for children to understand. Growing up in California, I was subjected to earthquake drills for preparedness purposes.  We knew the lingo about earthquakes since it’s part of everyone’s vocabulary that lives along major fault lines.  If you reside in an area that is not prone to earthquakes, the idea of the ground shaking can be terrifying and difficult for children to understand.
Here are some resources you can use as you sit around the dinner table tonight to talk about the day’s events and use to answer questions in the days to come.
Start by teaching your children vocabulary words associated with earthquakes such as epicenter, fault, richter scale, plate techtonics, aftershock, and magnitude.  I like the University of Maryland Department of Education’s vocabulary page because it makes each of the terms easy to understand even for young ages.  Upper elementary ages through teens will appreciate additional vocabulary relating to earthquakes and has animations of earthquake terms and concepts on the United States Geological Survey (USGS) website.  
Elementary ages can develop a good understanding of what an earthquake is and what makes them occur with the University of Maryland’s Journey Through an Earthquake webquest.  It describes plate techtonics, boundary separating along plates, seismic waves, and shows past quake damage through diagrams, photos and language that most elementary students can understand. 
Test your knowledge about plate techtonics with matching games or concentration and print out flashcards and a word search from Quia or test your quake knowledge with an earthquake themed crossword puzzle.
View a map of the latest worldwide earthquakes over the past 7 days on the United States Geological Survey (USGS) website.  
Have more questions about earthquakes?  Ask a geologist from the USGS your question by emailing them at

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  1. ConnieFoggles August 23, 2011 at 10:44 pm -

    Good resources even if we haven’t gone through the earthquake today. My daughter has a million questions.

  2. Anthony from CharismaticKid August 24, 2011 at 1:16 am -

    Yeah most of these things I don’t even know. I’m stupid.

  3. Lisa August 25, 2011 at 9:56 am -

    I love you. Once a teacher, always a teacher and I learned a lot today!