Thread: Re: Classroom Seismographs

Started: 2006-11-08 09:20:55
Last activity: 2006-11-08 09:20:55
Topics: IRIS EPO
2006-11-08 09:20:55
In a message dated 2006/11/04, JohnJan<at> writes:

Dear IRIS Teachers,
Alan Kafak and others have published an article in the Seismological
Research Letters on the use of classroom seismographs, which I think
you will find interesting, informative, and possibly controversial.
See Eduquakes @

I'm also curious how you feel about the Seismographs in Schools
program. How can IRIS encourage advancement beyond the "wow-level" of
seismology to the engagement in basic inquiry, systematic observations
and true scientific inquiry? Is there interest in developing communications
between students at different schools across the country, perhaps in
terms of comparing seismograms?

Hi Everyone,

May I add a few initial comments as an interested outside observer?

Quoting the final paragraph from above:

Barnett M, & AL
Scientists and science educators face major challenges in encouraging
a culture of scientific inquiry in K–12 classrooms (e.g., National Research
Council 2000). Here we have described some of our efforts to use classroom
seismographs as a medium for addressing this issue and for introducing K–12
students to the world of scientific research. Unfortunately, the culture of the
educational system in our society, the demands of the classroom, and the current
emphasis on standardised tests are all impediments to creating a classroom
environment in which curiosity about how the world works is valued. Nonetheless, we
have been very fortunate to work with a number of K–12 teachers who do a
great job of bucking this trend and encouraging curiosity and a culture of inquiry
in their classrooms. Inspired by these teachers, we are optimistic that,
given the right guidance and encouragement, K–12 teachers and their students can
reach higher levels of inquiry (and in the process enjoy science more).

I found reading through the Science Education Report also quoted:-
Weiss & Al
rather depressing. It suggests to me inadequate leadership, support and
performance by the various educational governing authorities.

If you want to standardise what is taught in state schools - and there
may be significant advantages in doing this - you do it by providing fully
scripted and supported lessons. This reduces the workload on teachers and leaves
them time to provide better pupil backup support, or to modify / adapt the
official lessons - even the least able can then provide satisfactory lessons.

If you don't provide your able students with a challenge and the means
to succeed, you will continue to get mediocre performance. Get them actively
involved in a particular project that they regard as 'their own'! Give them a
free but guided hand and they will likely succeed far beyond your
expectations! Remember that US educational standards are about two years behind those
expected in Europe.

There seem to be concerns over curriculum time and testing. By no
means all pupils will be interested in seismology, or competent to use a
seismometer. So you start up a 'seismic club' with say 6 'interested' pupils, three
'pros' from final year and three 'learners' from the year before. The pros, each
with the help of a 'learner' have the responsibility of scanning the drumplot
traces, extracting quake signals, analysing, plotting and recording them in a
log. There will be additional workload for the teachers at the start of the
first year of operation, but after this it should be mostly monitoring the
operation and progress.

This could be extended to monitoring great earthquakes and other major
disasters on a world wide scale using the Internet. Knowledge and practice of
'foreign' languages may be a help. You can learn a lot about geography,
agriculture, communication systems, foreign aid, political systems.... this way. A
lot of the follow up work could be done using student's home computers.

You will need a method of extracting information from other school
stations to compare accurate seismic arrival times. This should help students to
plot quakes world wide.

A MK II seismometer with a hermetically sealed case and with increased
sensitivity would be a considerable advantage. This need not add
significantly to the overall cost. One problem / limitation of vertical seismometers is
their relatively high sensitivity to air pressure changes and to wind noise. You
may need to exclude this noise before you can usefully increase the gain.

So what do the students get out of it apart from 'an interesting
hobby'? They get a two year record of doing real scientific seismic work for their
CVs. They will also learn to touch type! They should also get extensive
experience of using the Internet / News services in many countries in several
languages. I would expect this to be a considerable benefit when applying for a
University place / a scholarship.

The seismic club idea could be extended to a weather monitoring and
forecasting activity. With additional sensors this could be extended to
monitoring the conditions suitable for growing crops in agricultural areas and disease
How about hurricane warnings -> using seismic and infrasound signals?


Chris Chapman MA

06:37:33 v.22510d55