Waves of energy moving through the earth in an earthquake can be a difficult concept for young children to understand. Pictures of the aftereffects of earthquakes do not clearly show how damage to buildings happen. A pan of Jello can be a simple and engaging classroom model for demonstrating wave motion and explaining how earthquake damage occurs.
To begin with, your little one held a pan of Jello, as it was explained to them that it represents the ground, which moves during an earthquake. They were then directed to gently tap the pan to show the waves moving through the Jello “ground”. We then talked about what we thought would happen to buildings when the ground shakes. Using marshmallows and toothpicks, we created buildings to place on the Jello ground.
We then shook our pans again to observe what happened. We began by shaking gently, and then created a larger earthquake. After the students tested their structures, they redesigned and rebuilt them to test again. As they did this, they were encouraged to discuss how to make them stronger, how long they stood up, and the different shapes they saw. Using paper and markers, they then drew and labeled the shapes in their “designs”.
As a result of this activity, students explored a variety of concepts related to geology and number systems. Students additionally experimented with the physical properties of rocks, seismic events, and steps of the engineering practice. Lastly, your little ones conducted a scientific approach to creative problem solving, finding ways to meet society’s needs.