The Ultimate Resources For Teaching About The 1994 Los Angeles Earthquake

FEMA Photograph by Robert A. Eplett taken on 01-17-1994 in California.
FEMA Photograph by Robert A. Eplett taken on 01-17-1994 in California.

The Northridge quake shook the San Fernando Valley, just northeast of downtown Los Angeles, in the early morning hours of January 17, killing 54 people and causing billions of dollars in damages. 

Scientists later measured the quake at 6.7 on the Richter scale.

I specifically remember this earthquake because it happened on my 21st birthday. I was at college on J-Term (January Term), and we watched the news footage in the student center. As an editor of our school newspaper, I considered how we’d cover this event long-distance, including finding students on our campus with connects to Los Angeles.

Below are the ultimate resources for sharing this event with your middle or high school ELA students. Students can evaluate the factual information and personal narratives presented in these resources and write their own. You could even make this a cross-curricular activity with your students’ science teacher.




Lesson ideas

  • If you have specific memories on this event, whether you were watching it on television, or know someone with a connection to the event, share your story with your students. 
  • Share articles and video.
  • Place students in groups with computers to use the interactives and report to the whole group
  • Discuss student experiences with earthquakes in Oklahoma.
  • Ask students to compare Oklahoma earthquakes with the Northridge quake.

About the author 

Michelle Boyd Waters, M.Ed.

I am a secondary English Language Arts teacher, a University of Oklahoma student working on my doctorate in Instructional Leadership and Academic Curriculum with an concentration in English Education and co-Editor of the Oklahoma English Journal. I am constantly seeking ways to amplify students' voices and choices.

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