Musical Plates

Lesson 1: Plot Current Earthquake Data

 In this lesson students will access USGS earthquake information and plot the locations on a world map.

 Students will:
  • Access and interpret online data  information.
  • Plot the longitude and latitude of an earthquake on a map.
  • Make generalizations about a particular regionís likelihood of having an earthquake based upon its  location.

Approximately 15 minutes a day over a two week period for accessing and recording information. Not enough time or limited computer / Internet access...take a look a these Implementation Assistance strategies.

  • Musical Plates journal/notebook OR Activity 1 Student Worksheet
  • Large wall-size world map with latitude and longitude lines
  • Push pins, sticky dots/stars, different color pens, etc. for plotting the earthquakes.
  • If students will plot earthquakes individually, the following free downloadable world maps are available from National Geographic if they do not already have one:

Teacher Preparation

  1. Post a large wall map on which students will mark the locations with push pins.
  2. Direct students to Activity One in the Students Activities section.
  3. Students will take turns marking locations on the wall map while others find and mark the approximate location on their individual maps.
  4. After the students have plotted locations for a few days, they will see patterns emerge. Discuss and encourage them to make statements about where the earthquakes seem to be more frequently occurring and make hypotheses why.
  5. Plot earthquake locations for two weeks.

Assessment Suggestions

If students are completing this activity individually, use the accuracy of the earthquake locations that they plotted on their map as an assessment piece. The class / student maps should closely resemble the following USGS world map with the earthquakes from the last 30 days.

Student Activity

The following instructions for Lesson One are printed in the Student Activities section of this web site.
 Plot Current Earthquake Data

You will need either a small world map to plot the earthquakes individually or in a small group OR a large world map to plot the earthquakes as a class.  If you do not have a map, you can download a map from the National Geographic Xpeditions web site:

  1. Click on one of the web sites listed below to see all of the earthquakes that have occurred over the last few days which were larger than 2.5 on the Richter Scale. Note that in the first two columns you will see the time and date for each earthquake. Note that in the second two columns you will see the latitude and longitude coordinates for the epicenter of the earthquake.
  2. Use the latitude and longitude coordinates to plot a dot on your world map which represents the epicenter of the earthquake. For older students, use a blue star if the earthquake occurred near the surface (less than 100 km) and use a red star if it occurred deep (greater than 100 km) in the earth (you will see the depth measurements in the table.)
    NOTE: You can use the links that appear in the last column of the table to assist you in finding the locations of the earthquakes if using the latitude and longitude coordinates is too difficult.
  3. Do this for a period of at least two (2) weeks.


Help!! Don't know enough about latitude and longitude or Coordinated Universal Time (UTC)? Try these sites:



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Center for Innovation in Engineering and Science Education (CIESE) All Rights Reserved.