Did You Feel It? and the Quake-Catcher Network: Gather and Contribute Data About Earthquakes in Your Front Yard and Schoolyard
Posted: Tuesday, May 6th, 2014
by Robert de Groot
It is 9:09 pm on Friday March 28, 2014 in Southern California and all of a sudden a magnitude (M) 5.1 earthquake strikes in the northwest corner of Orange County near the cities of La Habra and Fullerton. The Southern California Seismic Network swings into action collecting data about the event. The event is widely felt and many people put into practice what they learned during the Great California ShakeOut the statewide earthquake drill held every third Thursday of October – Drop, Cover, and Hold On.
After the shaking ends, everyone checks for injuries and damage. Then many submit data of what they felt during the earthquake on the United States Geological Survey’s Did You Feel It? website. This site leverages the abundant information available about earthquakes from the people who actually experience them. By taking advantage of the vast numbers of Internet users, the USGS can get a more complete description of what people experienced, the effects of the earthquake, and the extent of damage than was available in the past.
Within two hours after the March 28, 2014 magnitude 5.1 event there are over 30 aftershocks. The earthquake shakes all nine high schools of the Chaffey Joint Union High School District (CJUHSD), located 60 km east of Los Angeles.
However, something else is also shaking at the schools.
In 2013, CJUHSD Superintendent Mat Holton and Assistant Superintendent Tim Ward agreed to have seismometers from the Quake Catcher Network installed in all of their schools.
The Quake-Catcher Network (QCN) is a collaborative initiative for developing the world’s largest, low-cost strong-motion seismic network by utilizing motion sensors in and attached to internet-connected computers. The QCN is a distributed computing network that links volunteer hosted computers to a real-time motion-sensing network.The volunteer computers monitor vibrational sensors called micro electro-mechanical systems, (MEMS), accelerometers and digitally transmit “triggers” to QCN’s servers whenever strong motions are observed.QCN is one of many scientific computing projects that runs on the world-renowned distributed computing platform Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing (BOINC). QCN’s servers sift through these signals, and determine which ones represent earthquakes, and which ones represent cultural noise.QCN provides software so that individuals can join together to improve earthquake monitoring, earthquake awareness, and the science of earthquakes.
Earth science teacher Bernadette Vargas (CSTA member) from Etiwanda High School, having felt the earthquake herself, signs into her account on the QCN website and she discovers that five of the high schools in the CJUHSD generated records from the earthquake. The seismogram shown here is from Montclair High School. She creates a report for her colleagues, which shares basic information about the earthquake, which schools in the district detected the event, and how to interpret the data. She explains that the blue record shows movement on the z-axis (up/down), the yellow on the y-axis, and the green on the x-axis.
The result on the following Monday: a teachable moment like no other. Many of the students felt the earthquake but not all of them felt the same thing – why? In several earth science classrooms in the CJUHSD a lively discussion about the difference between earthquake magnitude and intensity ensued. Copies of Putting Down Roots in Earthquake Country published by the Southern California Earthquake Center were distributed. Not only did the students review the Seven Steps to Earthquake Safety they also learned about the factors that influence what one feels during an earthquake.
The seismograms recorded by five of the CJUHSD high schools provided an opportunity for science educators to do other interpretive activities with students including a review of the behavior of seismic waves and how the locations earthquakes can be determined.
Vargas and her colleagues have been putting into practice strategies to implement NGSS in creative and innovative ways such as utilizing QCN data collected from events in their front yards and schoolyards.
An indispensable component of the QCN partnership between earthquake researchers and the CJUHSD is the support from the district’s information technology professionals. Director of Technical Support Marc Moya and his capable team assisted with the installation of the sensors and with troubleshooting software issues. Not only has Marc and his team embraced the importance of contributing data to better understanding earthquakes, they are also participating in a collaborative effort that focuses on improving student learning by providing opportunities to interact with authentic data.
California is Earthquake County and participation in the ShakeOut and other activities that promote preparedness and resilience are essential components of a K-12 education. Vargas, Moya, and others recognize that engaging students in real-time activities such as Did You Feel It and QCN complement and enhance these activities by providing students with opportunities to participate in authentic STEM-based learning experiences.
Robert de Groot is Education Program Manager at the Southern California Earthquake Center, an NSF+USGS Center at the University of Southern California and a member of CSTA.
Posted: Tuesday, March 14th, 2017
The pre-publication version of the new California Science Curriculum Framework is now available for download. This publication incorporates all the edits that were approved by the State Board of Education in November 2016 and was many months in the making. Our sincere thanks to the dozens of CSTA members were involved in its development. Our appreciation is also extended to the California Department of Education, the State Board of Education, the Instructional Quality Commission, and the Science Curriculum Framework and Evaluation Criteria Committee and their staff for their hard work and dedication to produce this document and for their commitment to the public input process. To the many writers and contributors to the Framework CSTA thanks you for your many hours of work to produce a world-class document.
For tips on how to approach this document see our article from December 2016: California Has Adopted a New Science Curriculum Framework – Now What …? If you would like to learn more about the Framework, consider participating in one of the Framework Launch events (a.k.a. Rollout #4) scheduled throughout 2017.
The final publication version (formatted for printing) will be available in July 2017. This document will not be available in printed format, only electronically.
Posted: Monday, March 13th, 2017
The 2017 Award Season is now open! One of the benefits of being a CSTA member is your eligibility for awards as well as your eligibility to nominate someone for an award. CSTA offers several awards and members may nominate individuals and organizations for the Future Science Teacher Award, the prestigious Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award, and the CSTA Distinguished Contributions Award (organizational award). May 9, 2017 is the deadline for nominations for these awards. CSTA believes that the importance of science education cannot be overstated. Given the essential presence of the sciences in understanding the past and planning for the future, science education remains, and will increasingly be one of the most important disciplines in education. CSTA is committed to recognizing and encouraging excellence in science teaching through the presentation of awards to science educators and organizations who have made outstanding contributions in science education in the state and who are poised to continue the momentum of providing high quality, relevant science education into the future. Learn More…
Posted: Monday, March 13th, 2017
CSTA is now accepting applications from regular, preservice, and retired members to serve on our volunteer committees! CSTA’s all-volunteer board of directors invites you to consider maximizing your member experience by volunteering for CSTA. CSTA committee service offers you the opportunity to share your expertise, learn a new skill, or do something you love to do but never have the opportunity to do in your regular day. CSTA committee volunteers do some pretty amazing things: Learn More…
Posted: Monday, March 13th, 2017
by Marian Murphy-Shaw
If you attended an NGSS Rollout phase 1-3 or CDE workshops at CSTA’s annual conference you may recall hearing from Chris Breazeale when he was working with the CDE. Chris has relocated professionally, with his passion for science education, and is now the Executive Director at the Explorit Science Center, a hands-on exploration museum featuring interactive STEM exhibits located at the beautiful Mace Ranch, 3141 5th St. in Davis, CA. Visitors can “think it, try it, and explorit” with a variety of displays that allow visitors to “do science.” To preview the museum, or schedule a classroom visit, see www.explorit.org. Learn More…
Posted: Monday, March 13th, 2017
by Joseph Calmer
Probably like you, NGSS has been at the forefront of many department meetings, lunch conversations, and solitary lesson planning sessions. Despite reading the original NRC Framework, the Ca Draft Frameworks, and many CSTA writings, I am still left with the question: “what does it actually mean for my classroom?”
I had an eye-opening experience that helped me with that question. It came out of a conversation that I had with a student teacher. It turns out that I’ve found the secret to learning how to teach with NGSS: I need to engage in dialogue about teaching with novice teachers. I’ve had the pleasure of teaching science in some capacity for 12 years. During that time pedagogy and student learning become sort of a “hidden curriculum.” It is difficult to plan a lesson for the hidden curriculum; the best way is to just have two or more professionals talk and see what emerges. I was surprised it took me so long to realize this epiphany. Learn More…