I like to do is help students understand just how destructive earthquakes can be along fault lines. I use this activity here from my Earthquake Science Tabbed Booklet:
In this activity I take two strips of cloth (representing two different plates) and cover it with the Earth’s crust (soil). Then I place houses representing a town all along the soil. I always make sure to have a few houses on the actual fault line. Then I have two students assist. One student pulls from one side one strip toward them, while the other student does the same on the other side using the opposite strip. When it is pulled, students notice the “fault line” right away. The destruction (upside down houses!) is very obvious. Once again, we discuss the various ways this could have occurred, such as pulling in the same direction or the speed with which we pull.
My kiddos absolutely love this activity and they really help students grasp the concept of earthquakes. If you’re looking for some other hands-on and engaging earthquake activities, you may want to read my blog post Do You Fault on Teaching Earthquakes? where students use graham crackers and frosting to move the plates (also great for seeing mountain building too!), or read about how we shook some buildings on different foundations at my Earthquake Simulations post.