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SFUSD, Department of Emergency Management Announce New Earthquake Curriculum

Press Release

San Francisco (Sept. 19, 2018) - How has Earth’s surface changed over time? How does the type of ground under a building impact its safety during an earthquake? How can we use our knowledge of geoscience processes to mitigate the effects of earthquakes? How can we be prepared for when the ground shakes?

Those are some of the questions that San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) 7th grade students will face this school year as part of a new earthquake curriculum unit, “Geoscience Processes and Earth’s Surface,” which is rolling out this semester as part of a collaboration between SFUSD and the San Francisco Department of Emergency Management.

The curriculum upholds a citywide effort to increase awareness of the potential impact of the next major quake to hit the Bay Area. Within the next 30 years in the Bay Area, there is a 72% chance an earthquake with a magnitude-6.7 will occur; a 51% chance that an earthquake with a magnitude-7 will occur; and a 20% chance that an earthquake with a magnitude-7.5 will occur, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

Each unit in the Middle School Science Core Curriculum is designed around a Group and Individual Culminating Project, including the Earthquake Unit. These projects are based on real world problems that allow students to apply the conceptual understanding they gain during the unit as well as provide opportunities to think like scientists and engineers.

In the Earthquake Unit’s Group Culminating Project, students will work together to create a presentation that outlines their location recommendation for a new music venue in the San Francisco Bay Area. This location should take into account soil and rock content, distance from plate boundaries, cost, and additional criteria of the group’s choice. In the Individual Culminating Project, each student will write an Earthquake Mitigation Plan using what they learned in the unit. This document will describe additional ways to reduce the impact of earthquakes and/or use technology to monitor them. The Mitigation Plan project also integrates household emergency preparedness and earthquake safety education based on the San Francisco Department of Emergency Management’s emergency preparedness program: SF72 (

“In our schools, we’re committed not only to teaching important information to students, but to helping them understand why they’re learning about a particular topic,” SFUSD Superintendent Dr. Vincent Matthews said. “This curriculum is an excellent example of how we can make a scientific lesson apply directly to a student’s real-world experiences. We’re grateful to have the support of the subject matter experts from the Department of Emergency Management.”

“I am so excited SFUSD has created a course that integrates earthquake safety and preparedness education,” said the San Francisco Department of Emergency Management Executive Director, Mary Ellen Carroll. “We have an entire generation living in the Bay Area who have yet to experience a damaging earthquake, including my own children whom I am preparing for college and beyond. It’s vital that we instill an ethos of emergency preparedness in our youth, who will share what they learn with their families, and become prepared and resilient adults. This curriculum is how a culture of preparedness can become a reality in San Francisco.”


SFUSD began developing curriculum for K-12 schools aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) in 2014. The NGSS call for a shift in the way that science is taught, with an increased focus on the doing of science and engineering through making sense of rich phenomena and solving real-world problems.

SFUSD has addressed these shifts by developing a Science Core Curriculum in partnership with SFUSD teachers and experts in the science education field. In designing for these shifts, the Core Curriculum aligns with SFUSD’s Vision 2025 and the expectations for student outcomes laid out in the Graduate Profile. Specifically, the curriculum engages students in taking on real-life tasks that use San Francisco as the classroom. Students are led to build mastery and personalize their learning in their approaches to the real-life tasks.

The Middle School Science Core Curriculum embraces the strengths of project-based learning as an effective instructional model. The curriculum was designed to reflect the NGSS preferred integrated progression for middle school, in which the standards for Life Science, Earth and Space Science, Physical Science and Engineering Design are taught in grades six, seven, and eight.

Curriculum development and research was sponsored by George Lucas Educational Foundation and conducted by a team from SFUSD, Stanford University, and Digital Promise.


The Department of Emergency Management is the lead agency responsible for coordinating emergency response, preparedness and training in San Francisco.  This is accomplished through Emergency Communications: 9-1-1 dispatch, Emergency Services: planning and response for significant events or disasters, and Grant Management: as the fiscal agent for Bay Area Urban Areas Security Initiative (UASI). The Department of Emergency Management is dedicated to safe, prepared and resilient San Francisco and provides emergency preparedness education through its emergency preparedness program, SF72 (


Page updated on 09/19/18