Earthquake Science Investigations

Did you know the Earth is made up of large pieces of rock called tectonic plates? Where two tectonic plates meet is called a fault. If two plates rub together at a fault waves of energy ( seismic waves ) come to the surface of the Earth which are felt as an Earthquake.

Earthquakes can be different magnitudes, sometimes they are just a small tremor and other times cause huge amounts of damage to the land above. An earthquake of magnitude 3 would be very small, 6 would cause substantial damage and 9 would have catastrophic effects.

The amount of damage an earthquake causes is measured by the Mercalli Scale, which is a measure of intensity.  This changes depending on the part of the Earthquake being measured. For example damage at the epicentre of an Earthquake would be more than further away from the epicentre.

If an Earthquake happens at the bottom of the sea it can push water upwards creating huge waves called tsunamis.

Earth like a Peach

Imagine the Earth as being like a peach made up of layers. The stone in the middle is the core, while the fleshy part is like the Earth’s mantle which contains magma and the skin is like the crust.

Another way to picture this is to make a model of the Earth like this one we made with playdough.

Model of the earth

Good Foundations – Earthquake Science



Chocolate brownie or other foundation

Gummy sweets

Cocktail sticks

earthquake science


Make jelly and a brownie or other foundation layer to test in a tray or on a plate. If you don’t want to use food items, play dough, clay etc would all work well too.

Build a tower using the cocktail sticks and jelly sweets. Ours looked like this.

  cocktail stick tower

We tested our tower on it’s own and then in the jelly and brownie by counting the number of shakes needed to make it fall over and recorded our observations.


earthquake science

Make it fair

The same person shook all our towers, so we could try to make sure the same force was used each time.

We used a tower of the same height and using the same number of sweets/toothpicks each time.

Keep the depth of the foundations the same.

Extension ideas

What happens if you build a taller tower?

What other foundations could you use?

Can you think of a way to strengthen your tower?

Did you know?

A seismometer is used to measure the magnitude of an earthquake. Earthquakes are measured on the Richter Scale.

Movement of a tectonic plate of just 20cm is enough to set off an earthquake!

Small earthquakes can be felt as a slight tremor, but larger earthquakes can cause severe damage, making buildings collapse, causing landslides, flooding and explosions. 

More Earthquake Science Ideas

Make your own Seismometer – full instructions coming soon.

Make a seismometer


Suitable for  – Key Stage 2 – Human and physical geography.

Key Stage 2 – Science

Earthquake Science Investigations





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