Over the summer, something rare happened. The east coast of the United States had a pretty sizable earthquake! It happened pretty far away from us in Virginia but a few of us felt a little bit of shaking under our feet!

In certain places in the world, earthquakes happen much more often. I bet if you talked to our good friends in Mrs. Yollis’ class in California, Mrs. Watson’s 2/3s in British Columbia, or B4 in New Zealand, they’d have many more experiences with earthquakes. That’s because most of them live somewhere close to tectonic plate boundaries.

The world is covered in tectonic plates. They are essentially giant pieces of rock that drift on top of the earth’s mantle. They can move from side to side as well as up and down. Below you can see how the earth is broken up into these plates.

Sometimes, these tectonic plates get stuck up against one another. Pressure starts to build up and then finally one plate will slip past the other. All that energy that was built up is unleashed and it sends out seismic waves through the earth. Those waves cause a shaking feeling which can be felt on the surface. The more pressure that was built up, the stronger the magnitude, the more shaking you’ll feel!

Most earthquakes happen where the tectonic plates meet. In the United States, that would be along the west coast in California, Oregon, Washington, and Alaska. They also meet in places with recent major earthquakes such as Chile, Haiti, New Zealand, and Japan. Below you can see where tectonic plates meet and where the majority of earthquakes occur.

In order to learn a little bit more about earthquakes, we used the United States Geological Survey website to research recent earthquakes. Students had to find the location (latitude and longitude), magnitude, and depth of five recent earthquakes. We then used Google Maps to mark the location and information about each of the earthquakes. You can see some examples of their maps below.

View Earthquake Map by Moriah and Jenny in a larger map

View Earthquake Map Alyxandra and Kevin in a larger map

View Earthquake Map by Ryan and Fiona in a larger map

If you’d like to see the rest of our maps, you can visit our wiki.

*Have you ever felt an earthquake before?*

*What else can be created by tectonic plates?*