Earthquakes and Volcanoes – STEM

Earthquakes and Volcanoes – STEM teaches students all about these natural destructive events. Students will discover what causes an earthquake or volcano and what many of their effects are. They will be able to create models, including a seismograph, and conduct experiments to demonstrate causes and effects.

In the “Options for Lesson” section, you will find several suggestions to either add to your lesson or alter. One suggestion is to video students as they construct their models and compare them to other videos of earthquakes and volcanoes. Then you can discuss with students how well their models compare to an actual event.

What our Earthquakes and Volcanoes – STEM lesson plan includes

Lesson Objectives and Overview: Earthquakes and Volcanoes – STEM defines and explains the causes and effects of these destructive events. Students will create a visual working model of a seismograph and of a volcano.

This lesson has four content pages. The first two pages describes earthquakes and what causes them to occur. Students will learn about plate tectonics and fault lines. They will discover a few different ways plate tectonics move.

The other pages describe volcanoes and their causes. Students will learn about the three stages of a volcano and the difference between magma and lava. The content does not cover the different types of volcanoes because the homework assignment provides students the opportunity to research them on their own.


Students will work with a partner for the activity. You will need to supply students with cardboard boxes, string, cups, tape, receipt paper, and several other things. (Review the list on the classroom procedure page.) Students will use these materials to build a model of a seismograph and simulate an earthquake. First, they will follow the step-by-step directions to build the model. Then they will work together to simulate the earthquake. The worksheet outlines these directions as well.


The practice worksheet provides students the chance to build a working model volcano. It lists the ingredients they will need as well as the directions. You should probably have students conduct this experiment outdoors. Students will also need to follow lab safety rules and wear protective goggles, gloves, and so on. After they perform the experiment, they will respond to three prompts at the bottom of the worksheet.


For the homework, students will need to visit the website listed in the instructions to gather data to fill out a chart. They can also use other websites to find images. The table contains three columns for students to describe four types of volcanoes and add a fun fact and picture for each one.

Additional information


3rd Grade, 4th Grade, 5th Grade



State Educational Standards

NGSS.2-ESS1-1, NGSS.4-ESS1-1, NGSS.4-ESS2-2

Lessons are aligned to meet the education objectives and goals of most states. For more information on your state objectives, contact your local Board of Education or Department of Education in your state.