Middle School Earth Science Teacher Guide


Features 13 core activities covering the fundamental topics of weather & climate, seismology & topography, soil properties and more.

Investigating Seismic Waves

Lab Summary

Use a light sensor to measure the amplitude and frequency of vibrations during three simulated earthquakes.


In this activity, students measure the amplitude (size), period (time from one wave to the next wave), and the time it takes a vibration to die out for their simulated building (meter stick) using a light sensor. They compare and organize their information in graphs to identify relationships the vibration patterns reveal.

Students investigate and observe how vibrations change over time while:

  • Understanding that during an earthquake the earth experiences shock waves (vibrations)
  • Realizing that shock waves do not continue forever
  • Understanding that energy is transferred in many ways
  • Making explanations and predictions from evidence and drawing logical conclusions
  • Gaining skills and confidence in using a scientific measurement tool, the light sensor, as well as the spreadsheet and graphing capability of a computer to represent and analyze data


Students gain experience conducting the following procedures:

  • Setting up materials and equipment to simulate a building undergoing vibrations during an earthquake
  • Using the light sensor to measure the amplitude and frequency of vibrations during three simulated earthquakes
  • Conducting three trials, varying the mass of the building by adding clumps of clay, and observing and measuring the effect on the vibrations
  • Using math skills to analyze the graphical data

Sensors / Equipment Used:

PASPORT Light Level Sensor


Can be used as an absolute reference by detecting and measuring light in LUX.

Your Bundle Options:

Option 1:

Middle School Earth Science Starter Bundle


The equipment bundle for teaching 11 of the 13 Middle School Earth Science Teacher Guide's labs.

Option 2:

Middle School Science Standard Sensor Bundle


This bundle contains the probeware needed to perform all 49 lab activities in the Middle School Science through Inquiry lab manual.

Interface Required

This experiment may require software and an interface for data collection.