Show two maps: USGS's Global Earthquakes 1900-2013 and USDA's population density map 1994. Paraphrase:
Here's a map showing where earthquakes have been recorded in the years 1900 to 2013. Two countries that have frequent, deadly earthquakes are China and India, and those two countries together also have about one-third of the world's population. The countries that had more than four of the deadliest earthquakes from 1970–2011 have their names written slightly larger in both maps.
The next map shows the population density in 1994, which is similar to today. The darker the red color, the more people who live within a small space, and the very densest areas are shown in hot pink.
Break up the class into groups of four and have them all look at the maps and charts and have them come up with some of their observations and conclusions. To guide their observations, ask questions like:
What do you observe when comparing the two maps?
What do you observe about the countries with the deadliest earthquakes? (Those countries' names are in a larger font.)
What areas of the map have a high population density and a high frequency of earthquakes? What areas of the map have a LOW population density and a high frequency of earthquakes?
Is there any pattern relating the location of earthquakes and population density?
Have groups share out their findings and compare conclusions from group to group.
There are some areas that coincidentally have high population density and frequent occurrence of earthquakes. High population density does not cause earthquakes, of course! Make sure your students don't walk away with a new misconception.
Share chart of earthquakes:
Take a look at the chart "Deadliest Earthquakes 1970–2010."
You can sort the columns by number or alphabetically. Compare the country names with the list of the most densely populated countries.
One of the deadliest earthquakes in history happened at the very end of 2004. Look at that very large and tragic death toll. Some estimates put the numbers as high as 280,000 people in 14 countries.
The table is sortable when you click on the headers, or you can access a Google sheet with the same data.
Optional extension: The map shows the “Ring of Fire” very clearly. You can make a connection between tectonic and volcanic activity with a lesson like USGS's Surrounded by Volcanoes.