Determining and Measuring Earth's Layered Interior

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Resource Type:Classroom Activities; Curricula and Instruction
Organization:Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology (IRIS)
Summary:In this lesson, students examine seismic evidence to determine that the Earth must have a layered internal structure and to estimate the size of Earth's core. Students are divided into two teams (theoreticians and seismologists) to test the simplest hypothesis for what is inside of the Earth: that the Earth is homogenous throughout. The theoretician group uses a scale model of a homogenous Earth combines with average seismic wave velocity to make predictions about when seismic waves should arrive at various points around the Earth (predicted). The seismologist group interprets seismic data from a recent earthquake to determine when seismic waves actually arrive at various points (observations). Students then compare and discuss the fit of the predicted observed data and then use a second scale model to further interpret these results. The students then measure the Earth's outer core based on their data.
NGSS Science and Engineering Practices:Developing and using models
NGSS Crosscutting Concepts:Energy and matter: Flows, cycles, and conservation
Subjects: data; earth; earthquake; seismology
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