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.
- 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.
- 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.
- I also tried the boards with a Duplo plate taped on.
- If you have a wobbly lazy Susan, those work great.
On each of these shake tables, if you bump a corner or pull back then let go of one side, it will jiggle and shake.
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 www.scientificamerican.com/article/bring-science-home-earthquake-proof-engineering/ or www.pbslearningmedia.org/resource/kqed07.sci.ess.earthsys.lpquakes/living-with-earthquakes/ or the video here: www.raftbayarea.org/ideas/Shake%20Table.pdf#)