Real Time Earthquake Data Mapping Activity

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Image Source: USGS

Essential Questions:

  • Where do earthquakes occur?
  • How are earthquakes recorded and measured?
  • What is the relationship between earthquake location and magnitude?
  • How do earthquakes impact humans and the environment?


  • Internet Access & USGS Earthquake Data
    • this link is set to the following settings: 30 days, 2.5+ magnitude, terrain, and no plate boundaries
  • Google Sheets Template – one per table top map
    • Earthquake Data Mapping Activity (Public Template)
      • to edit this spreadsheet, make a copy for each map, then share editing rights with each group of students who will be working on that map
        • if you don’t use Google Drive, you can download the Google Sheet as an Excel spreadsheet
      • ex: Map A data is shared with 4 students from period 1, 4 students from period 2, 4 students from period 3, 4 students from period 4, and 4 students from period 5. When done, they will have 200 EQs plotted and color coded on the table top map.
  • Colored pencils or markers per map
  • 1 Table sized map per lab group (3-6 students) – printed and assembled
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Sampling of student data from different regions of the world


  1. Assemble one table map and materials per lab group.
  2. Show students how to use and navigate the USGS website, find EQ data, and how to record their data on the Google Spreadsheets.
  3. Assign each group a map and 1-2 regions of the world. They will collect 25 data points for each region. They can choose any EQs over a magnitude of 3.0 for their region(s).
  4. Once they have all of their data, they will plot the EQs onto the table map. The magnitude of the EQ is the color they will plot onto the map.
    1. ex. Magnitude of 7.5 will be a purple dot
  5. Students will analyze their data and look for patterns
    1. What regions of the world have EQs?
    2. What regions of the world had more EQs? Less?
    3. What regions of the world had lower magnitude EQs? Higher?
    4. Why are EQs located where they are?
    5. etc…
  6. After this activity, I introduced Plate Tectonics and we discussed the relationship between EQs and tectonic plates.



Adopt-a-City: Weather Report Summary

My 6th graders completed their Adopt-a-City unit and wrote their weather reports comparing the weather in Morristown, NJ to their adopted cities. Students transferred their data to the following Google Sheet Template and then analyzed their data to write their weather reports using Google Docs.

  • Google Sheets Template for Weather Report (link)
  • Google Doc Template for Weather Report (link)
  • Adopt-a-City Unit with resources (page)

Overall this was a successful unit. The students enjoyed having an independent study based classroom experience and working at their own pace. They worked cooperatively with their peers and were able to explore each topic in depth with the provided resources. They also learned so many valuable skills and had a real understanding of weather. Below are some sample graphs for different cities:

image (9)
Morristown, NJ and Butte, MT
Sunset Times
Morristown, NJ and Baton Rouge, LA
image (5)
Morristown, NJ and Miami, FL
image (3)
Morristown, NJ and Seattle, WA
Morristown, NJ and Las Vegas, NV
Moon Rise
Morristown, NJ and Baltimore, MD

Pacing for Adopt-a-City Unit – students collected data and created Mini-Maps at the start of each class, and they updated their weather data over the weekends. I checked mini-maps and gave a daily grade of 5 pts per map completed and graded completed tasks as they handed them in. I also graded weather data for completion to be sure their data was up to date. Having a shared spreadsheet, with tabs for each student in the class, made it easy to quickly check each student’s data. I also added quizzes to check for understanding along the way. Their weather report was weighted as a test grade.

  • Day 1: Tasks 1-2
  • Day 2:  Tasks 2-3, HW Task 2 completed
  • Day 3: Tasks 3-4-5, HW Tasks 3 & 4 to be completed
  • Day 4: Tasks 4-5-6, HW Task 5 to be completed
  • Day 5: Tasks 6-7, HW Task 6 to be completed
  • Day 6: Tasks 7-8
  • Day 7: Tasks 7-8, HW Task 7 part 1 to be completed
  • Day 8: Tasks 7-8, HW Task 7 – complete Part 2
  • Day 9: Tasks 7-8-9, HW Task 8 to be completed
  • Day 10: Tasks 8-9-10
  • Day 11: Tasks 9-10-11, HW complete Task 9
  • Day 12: Tasks 10-11
  • Day 13: Tasks 10-11-12, HW complete Task 10
  • Day 14: Tasks 11-12-13
  • Day 15: Tasks 11-12-13, HW complete Task 11
  • Day 16: Tasks 12-13
  • Day 17: Tasks 12-13-14, HW complete task 12
  • Day 18: Tasks 13-14
  • Day 19: Tasks 13-14-15, HW complete task 13
  • Day 20: Tasks 14-15 or begin Weather Report, HW complete task 14
  • Day 21: Task 15 or begin Weather Report, HW complete task 15
  • Weather Report due x/xx/xx

NatGeo Map Maker – free maps to use in your classroom

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Download and Print Maps for Free

NatGeo has a wonderful website that allows you to select any US state, foreign country, continent, or geographic region and download/print maps for free.

How can you use maps in the science classroom?

  • Earthquakes – assign each student a region and plot real-time Earthquake data
  • Tornadoes – select a state and research tornado activity
  • Hurricanes – track current hurricanes or research historic hurricanes
  • Mining – where are coal mines located? salt mines?
  • Weather – plot current weather, fronts, isotherms, etc.
  • Biomes – color in the biomes for your selected state or country
  • Animal habitats – where do animals make their homes?
  • USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map – what zones are in your state? what types of plants can grow there?
  • Rainfall maps – does the amount of rainfall differ across your state?

NatGeo – Map Maker (link)

Using Real-Time Data: NOAA & Tides


I love when we have an opportunity to collect real-time data in class, as part of our unit on tides, we used NOAA’s website (link) to learn how to find real-time tide information, to learn how to read tide graphs and charts, and to find water temperatures for 10 different stations and compare their data. The kids enjoyed picking their own cities and sharing their findings.


  • Tides Google Slides Public (link) – this is a shared Google Slide that gives some basic information on tides and then it goes into a step-by-step tutorial on how to use the NOAA website to collect information.
  • NOAA Tides Website (link)
  • Data Collection worksheet (pdf) – students will record and analyze their data

The second activity, included graphing information for high tides at Atlantic City for the month of January. Students will learn how to read a tide chart and graph tide data to see the relationship between tides and moon phases. This activity was also a great way to practice graphing skills. Creating graphs by hand, instead of on a computer, is something that they don’t get to do very often.

  • January Tides Worksheet (pdf) for Atlantic City, NJ.
  • Blank worksheet (pdf) for students to choose data from a different location.
  • Tide Charts (link) – set for New Jersey but you can pick different states and locations for monthly tides data.
  • For more lessons about the Moon, visit the Moon Page, under the Space Science tab.
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