The earthquake that rocked the Eastern Seaboard on Tuesday is a reminder that schools need to brush up on quake protocol — and while they are at it, throw in a lesson about the theory of plate tectonics.

The 5.8 earthquake — which could be the strongest ever to hit central Virginia — forced schools that had just started the new academic year to evacuate and scared kids and adults who had no idea what to do in a quake because they have never experienced one.

Some schools reported chaos as teachers and students pushed to get out of the building when it started to shake.

Though earthquakes are not frequent on the East Coast — much less so than on the West Coast — there is the danger of aftershocks.

Mike Blanpied, associate coordinator for the USGS earthquakes hazards program, said aftershocks could continue for days or even months, although Tuesday’s temblor was likely to be the strongest. And he said, according to this Post story, they are most likely to be felt over the next several days.

For this reason, every school should educate the teachers and students about what to do if they feel the building shaking again.

What’s more, I’d argue that this is a good time to use the experience to teach (or reteach) the plate tectonics theory that explains why and how earthquakes occur.

The theory is important for kids to really know because it may be the most important geological theory ever developed. It says that the Earth’s surface is made up of a series of pieces, rigid plates of different sizes, that slowly shift over time. That movement leads to various geological phenomena, including earthquakes and the creation of mountain ranges.

Students learn about plate tectonics in science as they work their way through school, but I suspect that California students know far more about the theory than Eastern kids because they have been through more earthquakes. The experience matters.

Even if the lesson is out of curriculum sequence, why not take a little time to teach, or reinforce, the lesson when students have personal reason to be interested?

After all, I’d bet plate tectonics is on the test.


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