Workshop aims to assist teachers in sharing the science behind earthquakes, tsunamis

Published: Apr. 7, 2019 at 5:44 PM AKDT
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The Alaska Native Geoscience Learning Experience, or "ANGLE" for short, held its second of three workshops over the weekend, bringing in teachers from across Alaska for education of their own: The workshop focuses on breaking down the science behind earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanoes, all geological hazards present in Alaska, and presenting it in a way that students can understand.

Local geologist Rob Witter is part of the team that's working to make it easier for teachers to translate complicated scientific terms and data into a more digestible form for young Alaskans that are curious about earthquakes. Examples include a miniature tsunami tank that teachers learned to make using simple art supplies such as clay, toothpicks and water.

"All these things are simple tools that you can use in a classroom, or a museum environment or an interpretive environment," Witter said.

ANGLE was made possible through grants from

, and this was the second ANGLE workshop to take place, with the first occurring before last November's M7.1 earthquake.

A third is already planned and set to take place in 2020.

This weekend, teachers from as far away as Sand Point, Alaska, were in attendance. The group spent their first day touring areas of Anchorage and the Kenai Peninsula that were impacted by the 1964 earthquake in different ways before spending the second day in the classroom, looking at the science behind these events and forming student-friendly lesson plans.

"It's all interrelated and correlating and pretty complicated, but it's been really nice to sit with experts who are geologists, " said Penny Bearden, a math and science teacher from Nanwalek Elementary-High School.

Apart from going over how to teach kids about these events, the teachers also learned about what to do during an earthquake or tsunami, rehearsing exercise drills and going over essential preparedness tips.

Michael Heiman, a teacher at Floyd Dryden Middle School in Juneau, said he attended the workshop to learn more before forming a new disaster preparedness unit.

"How to make a go bag, how to identify risks," he said. "I want to go back with those sort of tricks to sort of spread to the kids and have the kids really thinking about what they need to prepare."

Jennifer Witter, the science curriculum coordinator for Anchorage School District, said that interest in the second ANGLE session definitely increased after last November's earthquake.

"In order to be resilient to these events, we all have to know what to prepare for and how to respond," Witter said. "Understanding a little bit about what to expect -and why- helps us to internalize that feeling of needing to prepare."

Although major earthquakes typically occur less frequently, Alaska experiences 100 earthquakes a day on average, according to the Alaska Public Land Information Centers.