The 1906 San Francisco Earthquake
Authored by Katherine Mooney
The student page contains the hook only. It is intended to spark interest in the topic and lead students to ask questions or make predictions.
Have you ever felt an earthquake? Can you imagine what it
would have felt like if it was 10 times stronger? How about 100
What if a similar earthquake happened in San Diego?
Students might ask similar but different questions than those listed here. The more students are guided to ask specific questions, the less inquiry-oriented the activity.
After students have asked questions related to the topic, they will need to decide a number of things, including:
Type(s) of Data
Defining Important Terms
Students should create a concept map to help guide their inquiry process, then write a story, letter, or visual presentation that describes the experience of living through the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.
Students should create a map of California that indicates the location of high magnitude earthquakes, and the location of the North American, Pacific, and Juan de Fuca tectonic plates in order to make connections between these pieces of data.
There is often a giant leap from defining the type(s) of data desired and actually finding the data. Providing guidance to students in finding the necessary data may be necessary.
Raw data/information usually has to be manipulated before it can answer any questions. Students might be unaware of how data can best be manipulated, so teacher guidance may be appropriate.
The following is an example of the process students might go through in the analysis of data in order to develop answers to their questions.
For the first two questions, concept mapping can be used to delve into the primary sources provided at the Virtual Museum of San Francisco (http://www.sfmuseum.org/1906/06.html). Working in teams, students should start their concept maps with commonly asked questions about what it would be like to experience a major earthquake.
Click here to see an example starting point for a student concept map.
The Virtual Museum of San Francisco provides a large number of first person accounts (http://www.sfmuseum.org/1906/ew.html). In reading these accounts, common themes emerge. I added details that were common to multiple accounts to the concept map. I supplemented my reading with photos found at http://www.sfmuseum.org/1906/photos.html. Of particular interest are photos of incidents and details described in the first person accounts, including but not limited to:
After processing the first person accounts looking for common experiences and details, click here to see an example of a completed concept map. (requires Microsoft Word, click on text and numbers in boxes to link to first person accounts that include that concept map item)
For the third question, in order to understand the relationship between the location of California's 6.5 or greater magnitude earthquakes since 1769, the location of California's earthquake faults, and the location of the world's tectonic plates, the following sites are helpful:
Students can then combine the information about earthquake locations, faults and plates onto a single map of California. The map below shows faults in red, earthquakes as black dots, and plate boundaries in light green:
Conclusions which can be drawn from this process are listed below in the Findings section.
No result is meaningful unless communicated appropriately. Discussion of findings should be supported. There may or may not be definitive answers to the questions students raised.
Once students complete their concept map, each team can choose how to present to the class their findings on what it felt like to experience the earthquake and its aftermath. Student presentations could be in the form of a narrative, written story, visual presentation, or dramatic reenactment. For an example of a story based on the final concept map from the Analysis section, click here.
Upon completing a map such as the one shown under the Analysis section above, students should be able to draw the following types of conclusions based on the map and previous instruction on the causes of earthquakes:
Students should present their conclusions in writing as an attachment to their map of California.
Answers often lead to new questions, starting the inquiry cycle over again.
After completing this WIP, students might pose the following additional questions:
All photos are from