STEAM Challenge

(History Crossover)

Speaking of Earthquakes…

Submission Due Date: March 26, 2021

Designed for Middle and High School Students

Table of Contents

●    The Challenge

●    Assumptions and Logistics

●    Process

●    Meridian Support Resources

●    Presentation of Learning

●    Evaluation Rubric

●    Essential Questions

●    Student Proficiencies

●    Curricular Correlations:
NGSS – MS-ESS2-2, MS-ESS3-2, MS-LS2-4, HS-ESS1-5, HS-ESS2-2
CC ELA – W3, W4, SL1, RH3, RH7

Range of Activities

●    Research of Fault Lines, Plate Tectonics, and Earthquakes

●    Research and Analysis of a Specific Fault Line and Earthquake

●    Creative Brainstorming – Concept Development

●    Script Writing

●    Digital Literacy Skills – Video Pre-production, Production and Post-Production

●    21st Century Skills – Creativity, Collaboration, Critical Thinking, Presentational Skills

The Challenge

Your team is challenged to create the next episode for the The Tip of the Iceberg podcast series. The series talks about natural disasters that you can’t always see until they are right in front of you. The show has done episodes on tsunamis, floods, volcanoes – and now earthquakes! The episode your team is creating will focus on a specific fault line and a past earthquake that occurred as a result of its movement.

Here’s what your team needs to do:

  • Learn what you can about fault lines, plate tectonics, and earthquakes to create a baseline knowledge for your podcast
  • Research an existing fault line and a specific earthquake that occurred there. Examples include:
    • The 1906 San Francisco earthquake on the San Andreas Fault
    • The 2010 Pichilemu earthquake on the Pichilemu Fault
    • The 2008 Sichuan earthquake on the Longmen Shan Fault
  • Develop and produce a 3 to 4-minute podcast that tells its listeners the story of your fault line.

The podcast should be a conversation between two or more people in a casual, laid back manner. Your characters could be a group of friends that host the show; the host chatting with an expert in the field; or the host and someone who witnessed the event firsthand. Your mission is to tell a scientific story that delivers the content while also focusing on the people and the place.

Deliverables include:

  • Podcast Episode (this is the only Meridian Stories deliverable)
  • Research Summary Paper (at teacher’s discretion)
  • First Draft Script (at teacher’s discretion)
[This Meridian Stories Challenge was developed by Cara Moynihan, a student at Colby College.]

Assumptions and Logistics

Time Frame – We recommend that this digital storytelling project takes place inside of a three to four-week time frame.

Length – All Meridian Stories submissions should be under 4 minutes in length, unless otherwise specified.

Slate – All digital storytelling projects must begin with a slate that provides:

  1. the title of the piece;
  2. the name of the school submitting;
  3. the wording ‘Permission Granted’ which gives Meridian Stories the right to a) publicly display the submission in question on, as linked from, related to or in support of Meridian Stories digital media; and b) use or reference it for educational purposes only in any and all media; and
  4. We strongly recommend that students do not put their last names on the piece either at the start or finish, during the credits.

Submissions – Keep in mind that each school can only submit three submissions per Competition (so while the entire class can participate in the Challenge, only three can be submitted to Meridian Stories for Mentor review and scoring).

Teacher Reviews – All reviews by the teacher are at the discretion of the teacher and all suggested paper deliverables are due only to the teacher. The only deliverable to Meridian Stories is the digital storytelling project.

Teacher’s Role and Technology Integrator – While it is helpful to have a Technology Integrator involved, they are not usually necessary: the students already know how to produce the digital storytelling project. And if they don’t, part of their challenge is to figure it out. They will! The teacher’s primary function in these Challenges is to guide the students as they engage with the content.  You don’t need to know editing, sound design, shooting or storyboarding: you just need to know your content area, while assisting them with time management issues.

Digital Rules/Literacy – We strongly recommend that all students follow the rules of Digital Citizenry in their proper usage and/or citation of images, music and text taken from other sources. This recommendation includes producing a citations page at the end of your entry, if applicable. See the Digital Rules area in the Meridian Resources Center section of the site for guidance.

Location – Try not to shoot in a classroom at your school. The classroom, no matter how you dress it up, looks like a classroom and can negatively impact the digital story you are trying to tell.

Collaboration – We strongly recommend that students work in teams of 3-4: part of the educational value is around building collaborative skill sets. But students may work individually.

COVID-19 does not mean that students can’t collaborate. This unusual societal circumstance allows students to, paradoxically, focus on their collaborative skills even more through a clear delegation of responsibilities; and tight communication in order to insure that everyone is clear on the scripting and blocking of individual scenes that need to tell a cohesive story, even though the scenes may be shot in isolation. Digital storytelling projects in general move the essential communication about content and learning away from the educator and toward the students themselves. That is part of their educational strength. But in COVID-19, this quality is expanded. With the teacher more ‘unavailable’ than normal, the students must rely on their collaborative skills more than ever. It’s like playing a team sport with less input from the coach. They have to rise the occasion …and they will.


Below is a suggested breakdown for the students’ work. 

During Phase I, student teams will:

  • Conduct preliminary research on fault lines, plate tectonics, and earthquakes to build a solid foundation of knowledge for further research.
  • Choose a fault line and a historic earthquake that occurred along that fault line around which to center your podcast. Students are encouraged to dig around to find an earthquake that interests them and on which they can find sufficient information.
  • Once you have chosen your fault line/earthquake event, find as much information on it as you can. Some information you might look for includes:
    • When the earthquake occurred
    • The (approximate) location of the epicenter of the earthquake
    • The earthquake’s magnitude
    • A description of the type of fault line (normal, reverse, or strike-slip)
    • Whether or not the fault line is still active
    • The current state of the area affected by this earthquake
    • Were there warning signs beforehand?
    • What kind of seismographic technology did they have at the time?
    • What, if any, safety precautions have been implemented since the earthquake?
      • Teacher’s Option: Research Summary Paper – Teachers may require that teams hand in a summary of their research on their chosen fault line and historic earthquake.
    • Finally, look into the human stories that surrounded your chosen event. Looking for primary sources that can provide details about the experience of the actual earthquake will help to bring this scientific phenomenon to life for your audience.

During Phase II, student teams will:

  • Brainstorm the creative aspects of your podcast
    • How will you introduce the show? You should explain what The Tip of the Iceberg podcast series covers as well as what your specific episode is talking about.
    • Who are the characters? There should be at least one host and one guest – or two hosts – to create the conversational nature of a podcast. The characters – and voices: think voices – you choose will help to determine the tone of your podcast; how it’s received by your audience. Do the hosts sound like friends or academics? Are they speaking in ‘character voices’ or quiet whispers?
      • Remember, since the audience never sees these characters, they only hear their voices, we recommend limiting the number of characters to a maximum of four to avoid confusion.
    • A good podcast should leave the audience hanging on your every word, excited to hear what will come next. In order to achieve this, your podcast should include a few things:
      • A clear structure which allows the conversation to flow smoothly.
      • A consistent attitude or spirit. This could be serious and solemn as you discuss the devastation that took place on that day, but it could also be humorous and light as a way to ease the weight of the topic.
      • A primary source, whether it’s a quote from an eyewitness or reports on the rehabilitation of the community. The introduction of real people will allow your audience to more fully understand the events that took place. And, more importantly, will humanize the science.
    • Write the first draft of the script.
      • Read your script aloud several times with your team playing different characters. Often, it’s only when you read the script aloud that you can discover what’s working and what’s not; what sounds like real conversation and what doesn’t; whether a character sounds right or wrong.
        • Teacher’s Option: First Draft Script – Teachers may require that teams hand in their first draft script to check for scientific accuracy and narrative cohesion.
      • Finalize the scripting and voice casting.
        • You may go outside of your group to cast the voices for this podcast, if desired.
        • Before you fully finalize the script, consider reading it aloud to someone outside of your group. What are they visualizing as they listen? Is the story clear and engaging?
      • Brainstorm the sound of this show. Would you like to add sound effects to create a more immersive experience? Will there be an intro theme song? Is there dim background music throughout the podcast?
        • Sound effects can be created and recorded by the team – this is called Foley: the art of reproducing everyday sounds – or found online on royalty free sounds effects sites (See Guide to Royalty Free Music and Sound Effects from the Digital Storytelling Resource Center).
        • The sounds you choose will enhance the tone of your podcast, so it is important to put thought into what emotion they evoke and where they are placed within your podcast. For example, you could use a slow piano piece to emphasize the devastation caused by this earthquake. Or, perhaps, you introduce a calming instrumental that focuses on the strength and beauty of the natural world. Be sure your music matches the style of your voice and the story you are telling.
      • Rehearse the podcast.

During Phase III, student teams will:

  • Record the podcast.
  • Create a graphic logo or cover art for your digital story that includes the title of the podcast (The Tip of the Iceberg) and the title of your specific episode, as well as some sort of image or graphic that looks neat and eye-catching.
    • Note: Meridian Stories may only accept this as a YouTube video. So your audio format should be delivered inside of this video format with the logo you create as the visual.
  • Post-produce the podcast by adding music and sound effects as desired.

Meridian Support: Digital Storytelling Resource Center

Meridian Stories provides two forms of support for the student teams:

1.    Meridian Innovators and Artists – This is a series of three to four minute-videos featuring artists and innovative professionals who offer important advice, specifically for Meridian Stories, in the areas of creativity and production.

2.    Media Resource Collection – These are short documents that offer student teams key tips in the areas of creativity, production, game design and digital citizenry.

Recommended review, as a team, for this Competition include:

Meridian Innovators and Artists Media Resource Collection
Margaret Heffernan on Radio Plays

Margaret Heffernan on Non-Fiction

Chris Watkinson on Sound Design

Kent Pierce on Script Writing and Comedy

Sound Editing Basics

Sound Recording Basics

Creative Brainstorming Techniques

Producing: Time Management

Presentation of Learning

Meridian Stories is a proud partner of the non-profit Share Your Learning, which is spearheading the movement of over five million students to publicly share their work as a meaningful part of their educational experience.

The workforce considers Presentational Skills to be a key asset and we encourage you to allow students to practice this skill set as often as possible. These digital storytelling projects provide a great opportunity for kids to practice their public presentational skills.  This can be achieved in a remote learning environment by inviting parents to a Zoom/Google/Skype screening of the student’s digital stories.

According to Share Your Learning, Presentations of Learning (POL) promote…

  • Student Ownership, Responsibility & Engagement. POLs can serve as a powerful rite of passage at the end of [a project]. By reflecting on their growth over time in relation to academic and character goals, grounded in evidence from their work, students are encouraged to take ownership of their learning. Just as an artist wants their portfolio to represent their best work, POLs encourage students to care deeply about the work they will share.
  • Community Pride & Involvement. When peers, teachers and community members come together to engage with student work and provide authentic feedback, they become invested in students’ growth and serve as active contributors to the school community.
  • Equity. POLs ensure that all students are seen and provide insight into what learning experiences students find most meaningful and relevant to their lives.

Meridian Stories’ own research indicates this to be a really useful exercise for one additional reason:  Students actually learn from their peers’ presentations – it is useful to hear a perspective that is not just the teacher’s.

It is with this in mind that we you encourage you to plan an event – it could be just an end-of-the-week class or an event where parents, teachers and student peers are invited – to allow the students to showcase their Meridian Stories’ digital storytelling projects. For more free resources that will support this planning, visit Share Your Learning.

Evaluation Rubric – Speaking of Earthquakes…


Criteria 1-10
Research of Relevant Background Information related to fault lines, plate tectonics, and earthquakes is accurate and demonstrates background research of the topic
Communication of Content – Specific Fault Line and Earthquake The podcast delivers accurate information on the fault line and earthquake around which the story is centered
Communication of Content – Societal Impact The podcast includes a primary source as well as a description of how the community has changed since the earthquake occurred


Criteria 1-10
Script The scripting is engaging and effective and flows like a conversation between a group of people.
The Local Story The primary source tells the story of the community affected by the earthquake in a way that is both informative and interesting.
Integration of Content The scientific content is integrated into the story and does not detract from, but instead enhances, the quality and pacing of the conversation.


Criteria 1-10
Editing The podcast is edited cleanly and effectively, resulting in an engaging listening experience
Sound Design The sound design is thoughtful, mixing music and sound effects poignantly, in order to bring the podcast to life and help the listener visualize the content
Voice Casting The audio for the podcast is recorded cleanly and the voice actors are chosen well

21st CENTURY SKILLS COMMAND (teachers only)

Criteria 1-10
Collaborative Thinking The group demonstrated flexibility in making compromises and valued the contributions of each group member
Creativity and Innovation The group brainstormed many inventive ideas and was able to evaluate, refine and implement them effectively
Initiative and Self-Direction The group set attainable goals, worked independently and managed their time effectively, demonstrating a disciplined commitment to the project

Essential Questions

  1. How does a fault line move to cause an earthquake? What are the different types of fault lines and what do they mean?
  2. How has researching one specific fault line and historic earthquake in depth helped solidify your knowledge about the topic?
  3. How do primary sources aid the understanding of societal impacts inflicted by a natural disaster?
    1. What are the ways in which an area can both predict earthquakes and prevent against the damage they cause?
  4. How can storytelling be used to more deeply understand complex educational ideas?
  5. How has immersion in the creation of original content and the production of digital media – exercising one’s creativity, critical thinking and digital literacy skills – deepened the overall educational experience?
  6. How has working on a team – practicing one’s collaborative skills – changed the learning experience?

Student Proficiencies

  1. The student will analyze and interpret data on the relationship between fault lines and earthquakes as well as distinguish between the different types of fault line movements.
  2. The student will evaluate the scientific details of a specific event to gain a deeper understanding of fault lines and earthquakes.
  3. The student will internalize the importance of primary sources in telling the story of a community.
    1. The student will understand how technology can be used to predict earthquakes and the ways in which earthquake damage can be prevented.
  4. The student will learn to utilize storytelling to effectively communicate complex educational ideas in an engaging and immersive way.
  5. The student will utilize key 21st century skills, with a focus on creativity, critical thinking and digital literacy, in their process of translating STEAM content into a new narrative format.
  6. The student will have an increased awareness of the challenges and rewards of team collaboration. Collaboration – the ability to work with others – is considered one of the most important 21st century skills to develop in students as they prepare for life after secondary school.

Curricular Correlations

The Speaking of Earthquakes… Challenge addresses a range of curricular objectives that have been articulated by two nationally recognized sources:

  1. The Next Generation Science Standards; and
  2. The Common Core Curricular Standards – English Language Arts & History/Social Studies.

Below please find the standards that are being addressed, either wholly or in part.

Next Generation Science Standards

MS-ESS2-2 Construct an explanation based on evidence for how geoscience processes have changed Earth’s surface at varying time and spatial scales.
MS-ESS3-2 Analyze and interpret data on natural hazards to forecast future catastrophic events and inform the development of technologies to mitigate their effects.
MS-LS2-4 Construct an argument supported by empirical evidence that changes to physical or biological components of an ecosystem affect populations.
HS-ESS1-5 Evaluate evidence of the past and current movements of continental and oceanic crust and the theory of plate tectonics to explain the ages of crustal rocks.
HS-ESS2-2 Analyze geoscience data to make the claim that one change to Earth’s surface can create feedbacks that cause changes to other Earth systems.

Common Core – English Language Arts

W3 (grades 8 – 12)


Text Types and Purposes

Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details, and well-structured event sequences.
W4 (grades 8 – 12)


Production and Distribution of Writing

Produce clear and coherent writing which the development, organization and style are appropriate to task, purpose and audience.
SL1 (grades 8 – 12)


Comprehension and Collaboration

Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one- on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grades 8–12 topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
RH3 (grades 8 – 12)


Key Ideas and Details

Analyze in detail a series of events described in a text; determine whether earlier events caused later ones or simply preceded them.
RH7 (grades 8 – 12)


Integration of Knowledge and Ideas

Integrate quantitative or technical analysis (e.g., charts, research data) with qualitative analysis in print or digital text.