Measuring Earthquakes

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In this activity, learners build their your own seismograph with household materials to document shaking. The homemade seismograph can help learners investigate the causes of earthquakes and how scientists measure their intensity. The print-out lesson plan includes step-by-step instructions, helpful background information on tectonic activity underlying earthquakes and seismographs. Extension questions and resources are also included.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
5 to 10 minutes

Learning Time:
30 to 45 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
$1 - $5 per student

Age Range:
Ages 8 - 18

Resource Type:


Materials List (per student)

  • marker or felt-tip pen
  • plastic or metal ruler that is flexible
  • tape (masking tape is best)
  • something heavy (a can of soup is perfect!)
  • newspaper or other big scratch paper


  • Earth and Space Science
    • Earth Processes
      • Earthquakes
      • Volcanoes and Plate Tectonics


Components that are part of this resource:

Includes alignment to state and/or national standards:

This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access



  • All rights reserved, California Academy of Sciences, 2012