Earthquake Challenge (FIL)

Every week, we have a challenge activity which encourages kids to build something, test it, re-build it… Our Earthquake theme offers a great opportunity for that. (You can find lots more earthquake activities here.)

Build a shake table (earthquake simulator). Here are a few methods.

  1. Take  two duplo base plates, rubber-band them together, back to back. Then insert four rubber bouncy balls in between them, one at each corner.
  2. Use two stiff boards – I cut the cover off an old three ring binder. Place two dowels between them for the boards to roll back and forth on (or 4 bouncy balls), then rubber band them together.
  3. I also tried the boards with a Duplo plate taped on.
  4. If you have a wobbly lazy Susan, those work great. 
  5. Or, buy this from Lakeshore Learning:

On each of these DIY shake tables, if you bump a corner or pull back then let go of one side, it will jiggle and shake.

IMG_20160130_133834495   img_20170128_122822340 IMG_20160130_133826314  img_20170128_122838052

Now build towers on your shake table. If you build Duplo towers on the base plates, they’re actually pretty sturdy. If they built a very tall tower, the “earthquake” would knock it down. But it’s easy to build towers that could withstand the shake.

Try building with wooden blocks. For our little kids (age 3 – 5), we just had them build with the wood and knock it down. We had our oldest kids (age 6 – 7) try building with the wooden blocks first, then with Duplos too to see the difference that materials make in earthquake safety.

In the IMAX movie “Dream Big – Engineering Our World”, they showed a class project where they set large jello molds on top of the shake table and jiggled them. We have also used a massager tool to create seismic vibrations.

For detailed instructions on building shake tables, and related activities / discussions, see or or the video here:

Remember, for more geology fun, check out: earthquake activities and rock-themed activities.

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