Earth Science Week Classroom Activities

Mitigating the Effects of Landslides

Activity Source:

Society of Exploration Geophysicists. Developed by Lindsay Mossa, AGI

Landslides occur when the soil or rocks on a hill or mountain are loose or unstable and fall down the slope. Landslides are a natural hazard and greatly affect people who live on or near unstable land. Common triggers of landslides include heavy rains and earthquakes, which occur in many places around the world. Mitigation strategies are developed and built by people to prevent or reduce the effects of landslides.


  • Plastic bin or foil pan (recommended about 15 in. long and 5 in. deep)
  • Soil
  • Craft sticks
  • Tape or glue
  • 3 small plastic or waxed paper cups
  • Spray bottle filled with water
  • Foil
  • Ruler (optional)
  • Timer (optional)
  • Plastic aquarium plants ​(optional)


  1. Use soil to build a hill that is half the height and length of the bin.

  2. The 3 cups will model houses built on a hill. Place one model house at the top of the hill, one in the middle, and one at the bottom.

  3. To simulate rain, you will use the spray bottle to mist water onto the soil next to the house at the top of the hill.

    a. Before starting, consider what data to collect. Make a data table to organize your measurements and/or observations.

    b. Hold the spray bottle about 3 inches from the soil as you spray the water.

    c. Stop spraying once a landslide occurs. Record data and observations.

  4. Clean out the bin and set it up again using dry soil.

  5. Use craft sticks (or plastic plants, if available) to build structures that you think will help prevent landslides or that will mitigate their effects on the houses.

  6. Collect the same data on your new model as you did on the original model.


  1. Compare the data between the original model and the model with mitigation strategies. If your strategy was successful, why do you think so? If it was not successful, what might you change so it works better?

  2. What other materials could you use to build a successful mitigation strategy? Explain your choices. If possible, test out this new strategy.

  3. Discuss the changes made to the model with other students. What was the most effective strategy for preventing or reducing the effects of landslides? How can you tell?

  4. Do you think the strategies that were tested would work in the real world? Why or why not? What other factors might you have to think about?

  5. Go to to see a map of projects being done by Geoscientists without Borders®.

    a. In what countries are projects being done to address landslides?

    b. Many of these projects do not involve mitigation but help to install early warning systems for landslides. What is a benefit of installing an early warning system versus a mitigation strategy?


Repeat the procedure using sand or gravel instead of soil. Compare your results to those when you used soil. How does the type of land affect landslides? How does it affect your mitigation strategies?


To find out more about projects from the Society of Exploration Geophysicists and Geoscientists without Borders, go to: ​


SEP : Developing and Using Models; Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions

DCI : Natural Hazards; Developing Possible Solutions

CCC : Cause and Effect; Structure and Function


9 : Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure

11 : Sustainable Cities and Communities

15 : Life on Land