The Earth quakes

Since 2009, the Seine-Saint-Denis County Council has been backing “la Culture et l’Art au Collège (CAC)”. This project is based to a large extent on the presence in class for several weeks (40h) of an artist or scientist whose mission is to engage the students in a process of research and creation.


Claire Rault/ Seismologist

Chargé de projet:
Mathieu Marion


Every day, hundreds of earthquakes occur in the world. They are detected by seismometers spread out over the Earth’s surface. Throughout this project, the students studied earthquake data. A station was set up in school and the students collected traces and analysed them. This was part of the “seismic” topic that the class learned about with the help of Claire Rault, a seismologist.  

Earthquake Stations in Schools
Can earthquakes be predicted? Why do earthquakes occur in particular zones in the world? What makes an earthquake happen? What is magnitude? Using images and diagrams, the contributor explained how seismologists study earthquakes. At the end of this stage, a digital seismometer was set up in the classroom. Linked up to a network of seismometers in more than 150 schools all over the world, it enabled quakes to be recorded, whether they occurred nearby or far away, between January and May. The data collected was stored for several months, allowing the group to study local seismic activity as well as major seismic events worldwide.  Analysis and correspondence 
The group analyses the first recorded signals: seismogram analysis, triangulation, seismic waves, study of the waves, their arrival times, the notion of speed depending on the various earth materials the waves travel through, pinpointing the epicentre, etc. During this phase, the classroom becomes a laboratory. At the same time, in groups of 3 or 4, the students contact students from other schools in the network to assess the seismic risk in these various sites all over the world. To do this, the class corresponds with 4 schools in Réunion Island, Turkey and China.

Analysis and Correspondence
The group analysed the first signals it received: seismogram analysis, triangulation, seismic waves, study of the waves, their arrival times, the notion of speed depending on the various earth materials the waves travelled through, pinpointing epicentres, etc. During this phase, the class became a laboratory. Several experiments were conducted to understand the nature of the recorded quakes. Using simple materials, the students also tried to recreate the behaviour of rocks below the earth to understand the notions of force and stress.

Risks and Unknown Factors
Once these traces were recorded and analysed, the group put its findings into perspective using the recommendations of the inter-ministerial “earthquake” plan, mobilising notions of intensity, paraseismic constructions and risk to human life. At the end of this analysis, the students produced research mapping that made sense of all the elements they studied.

Mapping was produced bringing together some of the students’ research during the Sismo project. Using the 2018 global seismicity catalogue, the students analysed the mechanisms responsible for earthquakes. By recording the catalogue’s quakes onto the map, they illustrated the link between plate tectonics and global seismicity. This map was exhibited in school so that the entire school community could share the way in which the group learned about seismic phenomena.

F93 would particularly like to thank the ENS Geology Laboratory for its invaluable help with this project.  


Participating Schools:
- Class 5ème A, Collège Jean Jaurès, Montreuil

Outings (selection):
- Palais de la découverte
- ENS Geology Laboratory


Graphisme: Biblis Duroux

The Earth quakes