Victorian Curriculum: Year 9

Maximum Students: 54 (2 groups of 27)

Program Times: Weekdays 10:00am – 2:00pm (or as negotiated)

The seismology program is split into three sessions:

Continental Drift introduces students to the theory of plate tectonics, how the plates move adjacent to each other and the subsequent deformation of the Earth’s crust beginning with a powerful montage of earthquake footage from recent history. As earthquakes are one of the major geological based natural disasters, the introductory session demonstrates ‘elastic rebound theory’ and the resultant seismic waves of energy are modelled by the students.

Before breaking into the next two sessions, students are introduced to the role seismologists play in the global science community.

In Locating Earthquakes, students learn how seismologists monitor these tectonic incidents, while focusing on the all-important seismic waves. They physically model how the epicentre and magnitude of an earthquake is calculated using the ‘Walk-Run’ simulation and then analyse the Californian Loma Prieta event of 1989. To conclude, students are shown a comparison of the energy released by modern earthquakes to the 9.5 magnitude Chile quake of 1960 using the Richter scale.

In Earthquake Engineering, students learn how varying focal depths of earthquakes can produce relatively predictable damage to buildings according to the structure’s height. They are introduced to the concept of the resonant frequency of a building and challenged to retrofit a ‘wall’ to withstand the shearing effect of an earthquake. Students are also introduced to the technology of ‘base isolation’ using models and the Earth Ed shake table.

Key Learning Outcomes:


  • Identify the causes and after effects of major geological events.
  • Describe the different types of tectonic environment that can result in the occurrence of an Earthquake.
  • Demonstrate and model ‘elastic rebound theory’ and the movement of seismic waves.
  • Describe the role of seismologists and how they monitor seismological incidents.
  • Model and calculate the epicentre and magnitude of an earthquake using seismographs.
  • Compare equivalent earthquakes using the Richter scale.
  • Predict the amount of damage caused by differing magnitudes and depths of earthquakes.
  • ‘Retrofit’ a wall structure to withstand the shearing effect of an earthquake.

Learning Standards (Australian Curriculum):

Plate Tectonics demonstrates the learning addressed through Year 9 of the Australian curriculum standards.  In particular, it addresses:

Science Understanding

  • The theory of plate tectonics explains global patterns of geological activity and continental movement.
  • Energy transfer through different mediums can be explained using wave and particle models.

Science as a human endeavour

  • Scientific understanding, including models and theories, are contestable and are refined over time through a process of review by the scientific community.
  • Advances in scientific understanding often rely on developments in technology and technological advances are often linked to scientific discoveries.
  • Advances in science and emerging sciences and technologies can significantly affect people’s lives, including generating new career opportunities.
  • The values and needs of contemporary society can influence the focus of scientific research.

Science inquiry skills

  • Formulate questions or hypotheses that can be investigated scientifically.
  • Analyse patterns and trends in data, including describing relationships between variables and identifying inconsistencies.
  • Use knowledge of scientific concepts to draw conclusions that are consistent with evidence.
  • Critically analyse the validity of information in secondary sources and evaluate the approaches used to solve problems.
  • Communicate scientific ideas and information for a particular purpose, including constructing evidence-based arguments and using appropriate scientific language, conventions and representations.Identify questions and problems that can be investigated scientifically and make predictions based on scientific knowledge
  • Construct and use a range of representations, including graphs, keys and models to represent and analyse patterns or relationships, including using digital technologies as appropriate
  • Communicate ideas, findings and solutions to problems using scientific language and representations using digital technologies as appropriate