Earthquake Fault Block
Earthquake Activities

In these earthquake activities you will create fault blocks that show how great earthquakes occur in the ocean. These earthquakes create tsunami waves that crash onto shores thousands of miles away and are sometimes over 100 high!

Megathrust fault blocks, Photo by Myrna Martin


  • 7 x 8 x 2 inch Styrofoam block
  • Paint (blue, green, grey, and brown)
  • Paint brush
  • Sharp knife (adult helper needed)


  1. Have an adult cut the Styrofoam block at an angle the length of the block with a sharp kitchen knife.
  2. Rub the two cut edges together to break off the rough edges and smooth the cut surfaces.
  3. Paint the Styrofoam pieces like the picture. The green, grey and brown side represents a continental plate. The blue and brown side represents an oceanic plate.
  4. After the blocks are dried hold the plates together while pushing the oceanic plate beneath the continental plate.
  5. A loud noise should be heard with the sudden downward movement of the oceanic plate.

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Science behind the activity

Megathrust earthquakes that occur in subduction zones are often hundreds of miles long. The ocean floor often slips downward and sideways during one of these events.

On December 26, 2004 a megathrust earthquake occurred when rocks broke along a fault line in the Indian Ocean approximately 994 miles long. The entire length of the break and the seafloor lifted several feet creating tsunami waves and vibrations recorded around the entire Earth by seismographs for an entire week after the event.

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