Earth Science - Earthquakes

Image: IRIS Seismic monitor by Xvei V on Flickr

These online resources have been selected to support the popular earth science topic - earthquakes. Earthquakes are a daily occurrence in New Zealand because of our country’s location on the boundary of two tectonic plates. Scientists study fault lines that run the length of the country and measure seismic waves created by earthquakes. SCIS 1525122

See also: Earth science - Volcanoes; Earth science - Tsunami; Disasters - Natural; Disasters – New Zealand; Disasters – Preparedness; Extreme weather

Canterbury earthquakes and recovery information

The Environment Canterbury website provides general earthquake information, civil defence procedures, earthquake Q&A, including links to media updates, and other relevant sites.

Suggested level: primary, intermediate, secondary

Earthquakes: Shaky New Zealand

Developed by the Science Learning Hub, this site presents information on New Zealand earthquakes, their causes and effects.

Suggested level: intermediate, secondary

Classroom of the Future
This site provides colourful, well-labeled diagrams and related descriptions related to how plate boundaries function.

Suggested level: primary, intermediate, secondary

Earthquake USGS
Pages for students from the United States Geological Survey Earthquake Hazard Program, which has information on the science of earthquakes, earthquake facts, and the latest quakes worldwide. Includes animations, puzzles and games.

Suggested level: primary, intermediate, secondary

Information for earthquakes that have occurred in the New Zealand region, including time, magnitude and location of the quakes. Earthquake drums that record the seismic activity at each location in New Zealand are updated every few minutes.

Suggested level: intermediate, secondary

GNS Science
The New Zealand Crown Research Institute site that has information on earthquakes, plate boundaries, faults and major faults in New Zealand, and the monitoring of earthquakes. There are links to GNS videos on YouTube.

Suggested level: primary, intermediate, secondary 

To discover information about earthquakes on the homework site ManyAnswers, use the search term earthquakes

Suggested level: primary, intermediate, secondary

Science Learning
A science education site with resources for up to year 10, managed by the New Zealand University of Waikato. Earthquake material includes New Zealand research and the causes and effects of earthquakes. There is information on seismic engineering, liquefaction and the Christchurch quakes.

Suggested level: primary, intermediate, secondary

Shake rattle and slide. The work of earthquakes, volcanoes and glaciers

This University of Illinois site looks at the background of tectonic plates and the science of earthquakes, tsunamis, and volcanoes. Text has a sound option. Contains animated demonstration clips and activities.

Suggested level: primary, intermediate

Te Ara
Information about earthquakes in New Zealand, including seismic activity around New Zealand. Highlights include images and video clips. Links to related information, for example Active Faults and Historic Earthquakes, are at the bottom of the page.

Suggested level: primary, intermediate, secondary


Encyclopaedia Britannica Online has information on earthquakes at junior and more advanced levels. School login (username and password) is required.

Suggested level: primary, intermediate, secondary

Have you thought about using fiction with your class to support your topic? The following are some suggestions for your students (and you!) to read and enjoy.

Quake!: disaster in San Francisco, 1906, by Gail Langer Karwoski,  2004 (junior fiction)
Quaky cat, by Diane Noonan, 2010 (picture book)
The secret of the fairies, by Thea Stilton, 2013 (junior fiction)

New Zealand: where two tectonic plates collide. GNSscience. YouTube. 3.19

Bill Nye the Science Guy – Earthquakes (richter scale). YouTube. 2.23