Earthquake Structures Science Lab

We have been talking second grade science!  Specifically, we’ll chat about the Next Gen standards on landforms and how to implement hands on activities, science labs, and STEM challenges while learning about Earth’s surface.  You can catch up on all of the blog posts here:

Google Earth Landforms Tour
Earthquake Structures Science Lab
Volcano Effects Science Lab
Ideal Island STEM Challenge
Weather + Erosion Stations
Sandcastles STEM Challenge

Let’s talk EARTHQUAKES today!  I’m just a southern gal who’s lived in Arkansas all my life, so I don’t have much experience with earthquakes.

BUT, in the last few years, we have actually had some very small earthquakes.  Like so small that I don’t even know they happened until I see everyone’s “Whoah, what the heck was that?” posts on Facebook!

And actually, the last one I did feel some vibrations, but didn’t realize it was actually an earthquake until my husband came home from work.

So, I truly don’t know what it’s like to have to build a house that will sustain an earthquake.  That’s part of the reason why I love this activity so much.  It just feels so exotic to me!  Here’s a closer look at this science lab!

(This post contains affiliate links to help  fund my chocolate addiction and support this corner of cyber space)


Here is what you need for this simple experiment.

Wooden blocks
Cookie Sheet

If you are like me and don’t have a ton of wooden blocks, this can easily be set up as a station.  I always have a content station during my guided reading groups and literacy stations that integrates reading or writing into science or social studies.  For second graders, this lab would be super easy to use for a station because it doesn’t take a lot of adult help.  The directions are straight forward and there is no spill risk to have to oversee!

If you are lucky enough to have plenty of wooden blocks and cookie sheets to go around, then it will work well for everyone to do it together during your science block.


First, we built a house out of wooden blocks on the cookie sheet that we thought would be able to survive the earthquake.

NOTE: It’s clear from the structures my son created that he’s five…and doesn’t completely understand physics yet, LOL!

Then, we drew predictions to answer the question, “What will happen when we shake the wooden block structure?”

Then it was time to make an earthquake.  You can have them shake the cookie sheet back and forth and observe the effects.  When we did this, we created a weak earthquake by shaking the sheet slowly.  And then we made a stronger earthquake by shaking faster.

And thanks to my hubby for the background music…he’s the one in our family always finding just the perfect songs to play in the background during our projects and this one would be perfect in the classroom with this experiment! 🙂

Then, we recorded our observations and made a conclusion about why the building did not survive.

Next, we did the same thing with a lego structure.

Cue the music… #jumptheline

Finally, we evaluated which structure was the safest and why?

This is also what happens when you give a five year old a second grade experiment! #simplethoughts

You can grab this science lab handout for FREE here.  Or get the entire Landforms unit here.

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  1. Hi! I'm trying to get the science lab handout, but I don't see the link to click. Can you please send it to me?