Plans & Activities
Indiana Seismic Hazard Map
: Lesson Plan
Walt Gray

Assessing Potential Seismic Risks of Indiana Urban Populations

Targeted Age: High School/Middle School
Lesson Structure: Individual Assignment or Group Project
Curriculum Objectives: 7.1, 7.2, ES1, ES2
Material Requirements: A computer with Internet access; printing or e-mail capability (optional).


In this lesson, students will use IndianaMap to create geographic information systems (GIS) maps to demonstrate the amount of general seismic risk that exists for urban areas within the state of Indiana. Step-by-step directions and tutorial videos will provide students with the necessary resources to create the final product. A list of questions is provided in each section to judge student comprehension of the data presented to them. It is expected that students have studied the basics of seismology, especially the term liquefaction, before attempting this lesson.

As an instructor, keep in mind that GIS programs allow students to approach problems using a variety of different layers. Students might choose to address the issue using some creative combinations of GIS layers not addressed in this lesson.

What products does the instructor want the students to create and in what format?

IndianaMap provides students the ability to create a map, bookmarks, hyperlinks, and to print the maps they have created. As the instructor, you will need to determine functions you would like students to use during the lesson based on the technological issues in your classroom and the outcomes you desire.

General Class Discussion

Ask students to identify factors that should be considered when assessing seismic risks of an area. Responses will vary. Responses may include location of faults, seismic history, construction materials and techniques, soil types, soil moisture, and population density. Throughout this lesson, we will assume that construction materials and techniques are the same throughout the state.

Tell students that they will be provided with an online program that will allow them to display a variety of information on one map that will help them determine the seismic history of Indiana and the population densities of locations across the state. Have students log on to the tutorial site and then follow the instructions provided in the student handout.

Essential Questions to Be Addressed

Identify the region of Indiana at greater risk of experiencing seismic events compared to other regions.

Given the seismic history of Indiana, what magnitude of earthquake (Richter Scale) is the state most likely to experience in the future?

Which Indiana cities are at greater risk of experiencing greater structural damage and loss of human life?


Students should have recognized that the southwestern region of Indiana has historically been more seismically active owing to the presence of generally southwest-northeast trending faults in that region. The majority of these earthquakes range from 2.1 to 5.0 magnitude on the Richter Scale. While easily felt by humans, earthquakes of this magnitude generally cause only minor to moderate damage to structures. By comparing population densities, urban development, and seismic information it should be clear that the greatest seismic risk to human life and urban structures is in Evansville and Terre Haute.

Extension or Enrichment Ideas

Have students measure the distance between faults and nearby epicenters using IndianaMap.

Ask students to investigate liquefaction in more detail using the hydrology and geology layers found in IndianaMap.

Ask students to research historical seismic activity across the entire Midwest region of the United States.

The class could compare seismic data with the location of hospitals, dams, schools, major highways and roads, and energy-related sites to construct another aspect of the risks associated with earthquakes in Indiana.

Site Design by: Michael Daniels

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