Seismometer enriches students' science education at James Hargest College

Heidi Wilks, 14, Ezrah Herrick, 13, James Clarke and Megan Sutherland with the school's new seismometer.
KAVINDA HERATH/FAIRFAX NZ

Heidi Wilks, 14, Ezrah Herrick, 13, James Clarke and Megan Sutherland with the school's new seismometer.

Rumbles, trembles and tremors - the earth is about to have its every shake and shudder measured by students at James Hargest College.

James Hargest College is the only Southland school to receive a TC1 seismometer, and one of only six South Island sites, as part of a national network of schools.

As part of a programme set up by the University of Auckland, the Ru network, students will have the opportunity to apply real-life geoscience in their classrooms.

University of Auckland PhD student James Clarke, who came to the college to introduce students to the instrument, said it could read earthquakes all over New Zealand and afar, depending on their strength and how far away from the source the seismometer was.

"It encourages [students] to look deeper into it and look at the principles of physics," he said.

The aim of the project was to facilitate learning in a hands-on, practical way, he said.

The seismometer detects earthquake activity, records a reading and sends a screen shot back to the Ru network.

Eventually the data, which is recorded by the seismometers across the country, is hoped to be used for actual academic research, Clarke said.

At the school, the seismometer will be placed on a weight bench and is connected to the school network and to the internet, allowing the students to access the  its data from their devices.

The school plans to incorporate the instrument into its curriculum, doing measurements and calculations linked to speed of earthquake waves, how they are measured and to explain development of surface features on the earth.

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Students learning about earthquake activity was very relevant, Clarke said.

"New Zealand is such an active tectonic environment and earthquakes pose a real threat," he said.

Clarke said there had been a universally positive reaction from students all over New Zealand to having the seismometers in schools, and there were similar projects in th UK, US and Australia which were also doing well.

"Students are interested to learn," he said.

Teacher in charge of physics Louis van Preez said the ability for students to see science happening rather than just learning about it in a classroom was a real benefit.

"Now they can see real life science happening in real time, it's not just in books," he said.

"It's applicable."

Since the students had heard of the instrument's arrival to the school, there had been a lot of interest from students in the earthquake science component of the school's curriculum, he said.

"The awareness is growing," he said.

 - Stuff

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