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Promoting School Earthquake Safety through a Classroom Education Grassroots Approach

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

June 29, 2016





Conference Session

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering Division: Fundemental and Evaluation: Embedded Programs in Engineering Education

Tagged Division

Pre-College Engineering Education Division

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Paper Authors


Lelli Van Den Einde University of California, San Diego

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Van Den Einde is a Teaching Professor in Structural Engineering at UC San Diego. She incorporates education innovations into courses (Peer Instruction, Project-based learning), prepares next generation faculty, advises student organizations, hears cases of academic misconduct, is responsible for ABET, and is committed to fostering a supportive environment for diverse students. Her research focuses on engagement strategies for large classrooms and developing K-16 curriculum in earthquake engineering and spatial visualization.

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Heidi A. Tremayne Earthquake Engineering Research Institute

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Heidi Tremayne is the Program Manager at Earthquake Engineering Research Institute (EERI). In this role, she is responsible for managing multiple projects and programs, creating and leading professional development programs, and supporting the Institute’s committees and chapters. Notably, she is the lead staff member for EERI's flagship Learning From Earthquake program, as well as its new School Earthquake Safety Initiative. In her role at EERI, she utilizes both her engineering skills (she is a licensed California Civil Engineer) and management skills to help EERI members and volunteers take action to reduce earthquake risk.

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Thalia Anagnos San Jose State University

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Dr. Thalia Anagnos is the Associate Vice President of Graduate and Undergraduate Programs at San Jose State University, where she has taught since 1984. She is a past-president of the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute, and from 2009 to 2014 she served as co-Leader of Education, Outreach, and Training (EOT) for the George E. Brown, Jr. Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation (NEES), a consortium of 14 large-scale earthquake engineering experimental facilities.

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James Mallard UC San Diego

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“School children have a right to learn in buildings that are safe from earthquakes” (NEHRP ACEHR, 2012, The earthquake engineering community has recognized that in seismically active regions throughout the United States, thousands of students/staff unknowingly study and work in structurally susceptible school and university buildings. The School Earthquake Safety Initiative (SESI), spearheaded by the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute (EERI), is a collaborative network of diverse, expert, and impassioned professionals who are committed to creating and sharing knowledge and tools that enable broadminded, informed decision making around school earthquake safety. The goal of the effort is to leverage the earthquake engineering community’s extensive expertise to promote and conduct regionally appropriate actions that make a substantial and positive difference in communities around the world, by protecting the lives of all who inhabit school buildings (SESI Strategic Action Plan, One subcommittee of this effort, “Classroom Education and Outreach”, is tackling the problem of school safety from a grassroots approach, with the goal of using education in the classroom to create on ongoing dialog with parents, teachers, and administrators thereby developing advocates for earthquake school safety. To do so, well-defined K-12 engineering curriculum aligned with standards that are well documented and can be easily taught to a range of teachers for broad dissemination have been developed for 4th grade and high school physics classes. In an effort to reach a large number of schools across the country, the initiative is engaging in EERI regional professional and university student chapters, who will work closely with classroom teachers and collaborate on delivering the activities.

Both the the 4th and high school curricula lead students through hands-on and research activities to learn basic earthquake engineering design principles such as the effects of earthquake-resisting elements like diagonal bracing and shear walls. They make use of an electronic instructional shaking table that tests structures under representative earthquake loading. The 4th grade project requires students to build K’Nex™ buildings while the high school physics project consists of two-story balsa wood structures and integrates mathematical predictions into a design competition. These project-based design modules have been aligned with next generation science standards, vetted with K-12 teachers, and pilot tested in local schools. This paper will describe the School Earthquake Safety Initiative, and specifically the Classroom Education and Outreach subcommittee’s effort in developing earthquake engineering curriculum for K-12 schools. It will introduce the 4th and high school curricula, provide an overview of the available documentation, present training tools developed to facilitate training of engineering university students and local professional engineers in order to enable widespread implementation in classrooms around the nation.

Van Den Einde, L., & Tremayne, H. A., & Anagnos, T., & Mallard, J. (2016, June), Promoting School Earthquake Safety through a Classroom Education Grassroots Approach Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.26002

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