Tsunami Quest Education

On Tuesday, March 29th, more than 100 seventh graders from Newport Middle School spent the day at Hatfield Marine Science Center learning about tsunamis. The day was the first of three visits the students will make to HMSC this spring as they work to create an interpretive clue-directed “Tsunami Quest” for the public. The Tsunami Quest project is made possible with the help of many community partners and volunteers, and we were fortunate to have terrific sunshine throughout this first field trip.


Exploring tsunami inundation maps

Through outdoor explorations and hands-on labs, the students learned about earthquake and tsunami safety, and discovered what to do if a local earthquake were to occur at HMSC. Oregon Sea Grant Coastal Hazard Specialist Pat Corcoran kicked off the day in Hennings Auditorium with a lively presentation about tsunami safety, and then the students rotated through learning stations in smaller groups. Oregon State Parks staff and volunteers led students on outdoor Quests at HMSC in the morning, and in the afternoon they guided students on a walk up to the top of Safe Haven Hill. A geologist from DOGAMI led a session on using and interpreting tsunami inundation maps, and Sea Grant educators helped students model the effects of seismic activity on wet sand in a “Liquefaction Lab”. At another station, the 12 and 13 year olds worked with their math teacher to measure their speed of travel under various conditions. At the end of the day, the students were given ideas about how to turn their learning and expertise into an educational Quest.


Calculating rates of speed

The Oregon Coast Quests education program has been providing outdoor experiences for youth and families since 2007. Quests are self-guided, clue-directed hunts that get people outside learning about place, community and local issues. Participants use maps and written directions to navigate through an outdoor space, collecting clues that lead to the discovery of a hidden Quest box. As they travel, explorers learn about the natural and cultural treasures of place as their attention is drawn to details in the environment that may have otherwise been overlooked. Topics of interpretive focus range from watershed and estuarine habitats, to the commercial fishing industry and coastal settlement history. Quest clues and boxes stay in place throughout the year, and maps and directions for active Quests are distributed to the public through The Oregon Coast Quests Book. The book is published every two years, and select individual Quests are given away by site hosts or made available for free download online. Audiences impacted by Quests include not only the more than 1,000 people who go on Quests each year, but also the youth groups and other community members who create Quests for others.


Liquefaction Lab

The learning behind Tsunami Quest-building project is interdisciplinary. Students are learning about the science of earthquakes and tsunamis, exploring engineering as they participate in OSU’s Tsunami Structure Challenge, and using mathematics to calculate speed of evacuation. They are also using writing and art to convey information.

The new Tsunami Quest will begin at the front doors of the Sea Grant-operated HMSC Visitor Center, which is located in a tsunami inundation zone and attracts 150,000 visitors annually. The 7th graders will visit HMSC again on April 12th when they will start the writing process. Their finished Quest will be ready to test on younger students by the end of the school year, and then it will be made available to the public and to school groups visiting HMSC.

Following this pilot project, Oregon State Parks and other partners plan to work with students in other coastal areas to create additional site-specific Tsunami Quests. This engaging learning activity will not only inform the public about tsunami safety at Quest sites, but also support a cultural shift toward increased public awareness of tsunami risk and response at all coastal locations.

Cait Goodwin is the Coordinator of the Oregon Coast Quests program at Oregon Sea Grant.  She is also the Communications Coordinator for the Oregon Coast STEM Hub.  For more information about Quests or this project, visit http://hmsc.oregonstate.edu/quests, “like” the Quests Facebook page, or contact Cait at cait.goodwin@oregonstate.edu


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