For this month in our science learning we are covering the Earth’s structure, some simple plate tectonics, as well as some features *like volcanoes, mountains, etc.*, and of course earthquakes. During our co-op activities we discussed Earthquake safety and how earthquakes happen.

We also did a fun little experiment I’m going to share with you all. It’s really simple, but tons of fun to do.

First gather your supplies.

You will need:

(We used large ones and small ones, and I think hindsight being 20/20 I would have just purchased the larger marshmallows. Why? Well the little ones, while easier to eat especially for young kids, are stickier and not as builder friendly. So my advice stick with the big marshmallows for building, and have a small cup of mini marshmallows for fine motor skills work and light snacking for the under 4 or 5 crowd).


(These are what connect your marshmallows in your building(s), I highly recommend the toothpicks that are round with the pointy ends. I was only able to get my hands on the flat squared ones, they get the job done, but I think the sharper ones would have worked easier with less breakage.)

Paper towels

(You will build your buildings on these, it allows for easier clean-up, and ensures you don’t pick up whatever is on the top of the table if you happen to be working somewhere other than your home or the home of a friend. A sheet long enough to catch the building if it falls should suffice (about 2-3 sheets long)).

And lastly, Two Tables (The tables will create your fault line, and of course your earthquake *with a little help*).

Now that you have your supplies let the kids loose to create whatever kind of building they want. The goal is to try and build something that could withstand an earthquake.

Once everyone has put the final touches on their marshmallow buildings, set up your “town”. Then make sure everything else is removed from the table especially any breakables. Have everyone step back and then begin the EARTHQUAKE. Moving the tables back and forth against each other did the trick, and my arms got a little workout in the process so it was all good.

After the earthquake assess who still has a building and who is literally picking up the pieces. With an older crowd you can then go into why they think certain buildings were able to withstand the earthquake. *What was different about the way they made their buildings compared to other buildings, how close were they to the fault line? Did any of the buildings closest to the fault line withstand the earthquake? If they did why do you think they did? And so on*.

For a younger group we found they enjoyed clean up the most. Either way it was all good fun, and the kids got to see first hand what happens to buildings in an earthquake. While all of these kids have lived through a number of quakes here, it is a completely different experience when you are creating it in a classroom and when your bedroom is shaking.

I think it is safe to say they preferred the marshmallow building quake more.

*Just a heads up for those with smaller children: We found it necessary to monitor the little ones while they were taking apart/eating their buildings, since the squared toothpicks were easily breakable they would break in the marshmallows upon dismantling. And of course kids being kids, they still attempted to eat them without looking first. Both mommies got sticky fingers from toothpick removable, but thankfully no one ate any toothpick pieces. Just something you should be on the lookout for if you do this activity with smaller children. And another reason I highly recommend trying this with the sharper/stronger toothpicks. *

Copyright(C) 2010 Rayven Holmes


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