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published by the Center for Innovation in Engineering and Science Education
This internet-based project for Grades 6-12 taps into real-time data as the framework for a student investigation of tsunami phenomena. First, students look at historical information on five tsunamis, then interactively explore the science behind tsunamis and wave behavior. Next, students will access and interpret existing data from the highly destructive 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. Finally, students take on roles as scientists to develop a global tsunami preparedness plan based on a budget. They must support their ideas with evidence from reliable data and present arguments based upon their studies. Included are detailed project instructions, teacher's guide, reference material, and a student discussion forum.

This project is part of the CIESE K-12 Curriculum Program's Real Time Data Projects. See Related Materials for a link to the full index of data projects.

Please note that this resource requires Flash.
Editor's Note: This cross-disciplinary resource meets many national standards as it blends physics, earth science, mathematics, and global history. It offers a highly engaging way to introduce students to frequency, amplitude, and periodicity of waves.
Subjects Levels Resource Types
Education Practices
- Active Learning
= Inquiry Learning
Oscillations & Waves
- Wave Motion
= Transfer of Energy in Waves
Other Sciences
- Geoscience
- High School
- Middle School
- Informal Education
- Instructional Material
= Activity
= Instructor Guide/Manual
= Lesson/Lesson Plan
= Problem/Problem Set
= Project
= Student Guide
- Dataset
- Audio/Visual
= Movie/Animation
Appropriate Courses Categories Ratings
- Physical Science
- Physics First
- Conceptual Physics
- Algebra-based Physics
- AP Physics
- Lesson Plan
- Activity
- Assessment
- New teachers
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Safety Warnings
Minimal Danger   No Safety Equipment Necessary  

Intended Users:
General Public
Access Rights:
Free access with registration
© 2006 Stevens Institute of Technology
amplitude, cooperative learning, data analysis, experiential learning, frequency, ocean wave, plate tectonics, tsunami propagation, wave frequency, wave period, wave propagation, wave speed
Record Cloner:
Metadata instance created April 14, 2012 by Caroline Hall
Record Updated:
October 3, 2012 by Caroline Hall
Last Update
when Cataloged:
October 1, 2008

AAAS Benchmark Alignments (2008 Version)

4. The Physical Setting

4E. Energy Transformations
  • 6-8: 4E/M1. Whenever energy appears in one place, it must have disappeared from another. Whenever energy is lost from somewhere, it must have gone somewhere else. Sometimes when energy appears to be lost, it actually has been transferred to a system that is so large that the effect of the transferred energy is imperceptible.
  • 6-8: 4E/M2. Energy can be transferred from one system to another (or from a system to its environment) in different ways: 1) thermally, when a warmer object is in contact with a cooler one; 2) mechanically, when two objects push or pull on each other over a distance; 3) electrically, when an electrical source such as a battery or generator is connected in a complete circuit to an electrical device; or 4) by electromagnetic waves.
4F. Motion
  • 6-8: 4F/M4. Vibrations in materials set up wavelike disturbances that spread away from the source. Sound and earthquake waves are examples. These and other waves move at different speeds in different materials.
  • 6-8: 4F/M7. Wave behavior can be described in terms of how fast the disturbance spreads, and in terms of the distance between successive peaks of the disturbance (the wavelength).
  • 9-12: 4F/H6ab. Waves can superpose on one another, bend around corners, reflect off surfaces, be absorbed by materials they enter, and change direction when entering a new material. All these effects vary with wavelength.
  • 9-12: 4F/H6c. The energy of waves (like any form of energy) can be changed into other forms of energy.

10. Historical Perspectives

10E. Moving the Continents
  • 9-12: 10E/H3. In the 1960s, scientists noted that earthquakes occur much more frequently in certain areas, that the rock around mid-ocean ridges is progressively older the farther it is from the ridge, and that this gradient is symmetrical on either side of the ridge. This evidence, coupled with a scientifically sound physical explanation for how continents could move, transformed the idea of moving continents into the theory of plate tectonics.

12. Habits of Mind

12D. Communication Skills
  • 6-8: 12D/M3. Locate information in reference books, back issues of newspapers and magazines, compact disks, and computer databases.
  • 6-8: 12D/M5. Find and describe locations on maps with rectangular and polar coordinates.
  • 6-8: 12D/M6. Present a brief scientific explanation orally or in writing that includes a claim and the evidence and reasoning that supports the claim.
  • 6-8: 12D/M8. Explain a scientific idea to someone else, checking understanding and responding to questions.
  • 9-12: 12D/H6. Participate in group discussions on scientific topics by restating or summarizing accurately what others have said, asking for clarification or elaboration, and expressing alternative positions.
  • 9-12: 12D/H7. Use tables, charts, and graphs in making arguments and claims in oral, written, and visual presentations.

Common Core State Standards for Mathematics Alignments

Standards for Mathematical Practice (K-12)

MP.3 Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others.

Statistics and Probability (6-8)

Develop understanding of statistical variability. (6)
  • 6.SP.2 Understand that a set of data collected to answer a statistical question has a distribution which can be described by its center, spread, and overall shape.
Summarize and describe distributions. (6)
  • 6.SP.4 Display numerical data in plots on a number line, including dot plots, histograms, and box plots.
  • 6.SP.5.a Reporting the number of observations.
  • 6.SP.5.b Describing the nature of the attribute under investigation, including how it was measured and its units of measurement.
  • 6.SP.5.c Giving quantitative measures of center (median and/or mean) and variability (interquartile range and/or mean absolute deviation), as well as describing any overall pattern and any striking deviations from the overall pattern with reference to the context in which the data were gathered.
Investigate patterns of association in bivariate data. (8)
  • 8.SP.1 Construct and interpret scatter plots for bivariate measurement data to investigate patterns of association between two quantities. Describe patterns such as clustering, outliers, positive or negative association, linear association, and nonlinear association.

High School — Statistics and Probability? (9-12)

Interpreting Categorical and Quantitative Data (9-12)
  • S-ID.3 Interpret differences in shape, center, and spread in the context of the data sets, accounting for possible effects of extreme data points (outliers).
Making Inferences and Justifying Conclusions (9-12)
  • S-IC.2 Decide if a specified model is consistent with results from a given data-generating process, e.g., using simulation.
  • S-IC.6 Evaluate reports based on data.

Common Core State Reading Standards for Literacy in Science and Technical Subjects 6—12

Key Ideas and Details (6-12)
  • RST.6-8.2 Determine the central ideas or conclusions of a text; provide an accurate summary of the text distinct from prior knowledge or opinions.
  • RST.9-10.2 Determine the central ideas or conclusions of a text; trace the text's explanation or depiction of a complex process, phenomenon, or concept; provide an accurate summary of the text.
Craft and Structure (6-12)
  • RST.6-8.4 Determine the meaning of symbols, key terms, and other domain-specific words and phrases as they are used in a specific scientific or technical context relevant to grades 6—8 texts and topics.
  • RST.9-10.4 Determine the meaning of symbols, key terms, and other domain-specific words and phrases as they are used in a specific scientific or technical context relevant to grades 9—10 texts and topics.
Integration of Knowledge and Ideas (6-12)
  • RST.6-8.7 Integrate quantitative or technical information expressed in words in a text with a version of that information expressed visually (e.g., in a flowchart, diagram, model, graph, or table).
  • RST.6-8.9 Compare and contrast the information gained from experiments, simulations, video, or multimedia sources with that gained from reading a text on the same topic.
  • RST.9-10.9 Compare and contrast findings presented in a text to those from other sources (including their own experiments), noting when the findings support or contradict previous explanations or accounts.
  • RST.11-12.7 Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats and media (e.g., quantitative data, video, multimedia) in order to address a question or solve a problem.
  • RST.11-12.9 Synthesize information from a range of sources (e.g., texts, experiments, simulations) into a coherent understanding of a process, phenomenon, or concept, resolving conflicting information when possible.
Range of Reading and Level of Text Complexity (6-12)
  • RST.9-10.10 By the end of grade 10, read and comprehend science/technical texts in the grades 9—10 text complexity band independently and proficiently.

Common Core State Writing Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects 6—12

Text Types and Purposes (6-12)
  • 1. Write arguments focused on discipline-specific content. (WHST.6-8.1)
  • 2. Write informative/explanatory texts, including the narration of historical events, scientific procedures/ experiments, or technical processes. (WHST.9-10.2)
Production and Distribution of Writing (6-12)
  • WHST.6-8.5 With some guidance and support from peers and adults, develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach, focusing on how well purpose and audience have been addressed.
Research to Build and Present Knowledge (6-12)
  • WHST.6-8.7 Conduct short research projects to answer a question (including a self-generated question), drawing on several sources and generating additional related, focused questions that allow for multiple avenues of exploration.
  • WHST.6-8.9 Draw evidence from informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.
  • WHST.9-10.7 Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects to answer a question (including a self-generated question) or solve a problem; narrow or broaden the inquiry when appropriate; synthesize multiple sources on the subject, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.

This resource is part of a Physics Front Topical Unit.

Topic: Wave Energy
Unit Title: Teaching About Waves and Wave Energy

Cross-disciplinary resource blends physics, earth science, and global history to get students excited about the science of tsunamis. It is a highly engaging way to introduce your students to the basic wave properties of frequency, amplitude, and periodicity. They use real-time data to see how various global agencies monitor for tsunami activity, then develop a "preparedness plan" using evidence from the data they collected. Most appropriate for grades 8-12, but could be adapted for Grades 6-7.

Link to Unit:
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Record Link
AIP Format
(Center for Innovation in Engineering and Science Education, Hoboken, 2006), WWW Document, (http://www.ciese.org/curriculum/tsunami/).
CIESE Real Time Data Projects: Tsunami Surge, (Center for Innovation in Engineering and Science Education, Hoboken, 2006), <http://www.ciese.org/curriculum/tsunami/>.
APA Format
CIESE Real Time Data Projects: Tsunami Surge. (2008, October 1). Retrieved June 28, 2022, from Center for Innovation in Engineering and Science Education: http://www.ciese.org/curriculum/tsunami/
Chicago Format
Center for Innovation in Engineering and Science Education. CIESE Real Time Data Projects: Tsunami Surge. Hoboken: Center for Innovation in Engineering and Science Education, October 1, 2008. http://www.ciese.org/curriculum/tsunami/ (accessed 28 June 2022).
MLA Format
CIESE Real Time Data Projects: Tsunami Surge. Hoboken: Center for Innovation in Engineering and Science Education, 2006. 1 Oct. 2008. 28 June 2022 <http://www.ciese.org/curriculum/tsunami/>.
BibTeX Export Format
@misc{ Title = {CIESE Real Time Data Projects: Tsunami Surge}, Publisher = {Center for Innovation in Engineering and Science Education}, Volume = {2022}, Number = {28 June 2022}, Month = {October 1, 2008}, Year = {2006} }
Refer Export Format

%T CIESE Real Time Data Projects: Tsunami Surge %D October 1, 2008 %I Center for Innovation in Engineering and Science Education %C Hoboken %U http://www.ciese.org/curriculum/tsunami/ %O text/html

EndNote Export Format

%0 Electronic Source %D October 1, 2008 %T CIESE Real Time Data Projects: Tsunami Surge %I Center for Innovation in Engineering and Science Education %V 2022 %N 28 June 2022 %8 October 1, 2008 %9 text/html %U http://www.ciese.org/curriculum/tsunami/

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CIESE Real Time Data Projects: Tsunami Surge:

Is Part Of CIESE: Real Time Data Projects

A link to the full index of data projects for K-12, all developed by CIESE, the Center for Innovation in Engineering and Science Education.

relation by Caroline Hall

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Apr 15 - Jun 15, 2012