School’s seismograph sensing shakes

Maungatapu School pupils Edward, Jackson, and Jamie gathered around the library’s seismograph. Photo: Nikki South.

If there’s an earthquake, no matter how small, the kids at Maungatapu School know about it.

In recent weeks pupils coming into the library have been able to check out the underground activity in our region, thanks to a seismograph installed by the University of Auckland.

Teacher Chris Dixon has been taking part in the Science Teaching Leadership Programme run by the Royal Society Te Aparangi, which gives primary and secondary school teachers the opportunity to develop their scientific knowledge and build connections with New Zealand’s scientific community.

“As well as being involved in high-level professional development around science teaching and leadership, I’ve been able to network with scientists, which is how we got the seismograph.”

The $1000 seismograph has picked up recent earthquakes in the Bay of Plenty, but can detect them from further afield too.

It also picks up heavy traffic and even when people jump next to it – but the pupils know those aren’t real earthquakes, because the ‘spikes’ on the computer screen are solitary, as opposed to being packed densely together.

If they think they’ve recorded an earthquake, they cross-check it with confirmed updates on GeoNet.

“With this seismograph, we’ve joined around 40 other schools that are members of the Ru Network, the University of Auckland’s ‘seismometers in schools’ project,” says Chris.

“We would especially like to thank Dr Kasper van Wijk from the Physics Department who came down, set up the seismograph, and ran some mazing sessions with the children.”

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