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This provides a framework and a Powerpoint presentation to explore possible architectual solutions (structural and aesthetic) in earthquake prone landscapes.


This lesson was designed as part of a teacher workshop facilitated by Catherine Ellen French, University of Minnesota. The author is this lesson is:

Carolyn S. Olson, K-12 Art Specialist, ISD2142 St. Louis County School District, AlBrook, Gidakiimanaaniwagamig Math and Earth Science Camp, Fond du Lac Reservation, Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College and the National Center for Earth-surface Dynamics, BFA Studio Art-painting and graphics, MA Painting

Earthquake Engineering Component

Problem How can a building or home be built to withstand an earthquake and be aesthetically pleasing and architecturally interesting?

Learning Objectives and Standards

Links to the National Science Standards and to individual State Science Standards are available by using this link:

Material List


Shake Table K'Nex Lesson

Day 1 Introduction to earthquakes and Earthquake PowerPoint

Day 2 Architecture Powerpoint

Day 3 Shake Table demonstration and individual (architecture design/architect biography) and group assignments (K'Nex building and earthquake survival demonstration)

Day 4-5 K'Nex building

Day 6 Demonstration 1

Day 7-8 Rebuild K'Nex structures

Day 9 Demonstration 2

Architecture Design and Structure Lesson

Day 10-12 Student presentation of Architects

Day 13

Day 14

Day 15


Drawing paper, grid paper

Pencils, erasers, shapeners

Equipment Space

Art Room

Computer Lab - PowerPoint, internet access



Earthquake Whenever an earthquake of any size happens anywhere in the world the same basic thing happens; the ground along either side of a fault (a fracture or crack in the ground) moves. Faults are cracks in the earth caused by buckling and stress from the movement of the tectonic plates. Movement along fault lines tends to happen along plate boundaries (where the edges of the tectonic plates meet)

Fault Line The intersection of a fault with the surface of the earth or other plane of reference.

Magnitude Dependent on how much movement involved in the particular earthquake.

Liquefaction Liquefaction is a type of ground failure in which water saturated sediment turns from a solid to a liquid as a result of shaking, often caused by an earthquake or even a volcanic eruption. In order for the liquefaction to occur the sand grains must be fine grain sand that are not closely packed together nor must it be held but some sort of cohesion. The intense shaking causes the strength of the soil to become weak and the sand and water begin to flow.

Porosity Porosity is the percentage of a rock's volume that consists of open space, is a measurement of a rock's ability to hold water. The siltstone has a porosity of 35 to 50% whereas the clays have a porosity of 35-80% and sand is in the 30 to 50% range.

Zoning To prevent liquefaction of the soil the safest way is to test the soil to see if it is capable of liquefaction. If it test positive for liquefaction, then the area is place under special restrictions as to the type of buildings that can be erected..

Links and Resources

Teaching liquefaction

Video of how to do a liquefaction demonstration

Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  • Catherine Ellen French; NEES EOT (2011), "Earthquakes and Architecture,"

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