Some things in the world…okay a lot of things in the world…are difficult subjects to tackle with students. When bad things happen in the world, especially close to home, how do we help our students understand what’s going on and what they are feeling? There are textbooks, lesson plans, and best practices in place to teach the core academic subjects, but the there is no clear-cut procedure for handling unexplainable disasters. Whether it’s a natural disaster or a man-made one, students are witnessing situations in real time and in more detail than ever. The unfolding events can be very scary for students and teachers. Discovering the scientific basis of these disasters and how to cope may alleviate this fear and give a feeling of control over the situation.
Depending on the age of your students, these explorations of catastrophic events can include historical comparisons, political discussions, service projects, and hands-on experiments. There are many different types of resources catalogued on the Gateway and other sites to help you introduce and study just about any type of natural disaster with your students. Joann will be posting a variety of examples of these resources daily on our Facebook and Twitter pages.
Where you live and the specific time of year influence the types of natural disasters you may need to teach about in your classroom. If you live in an area commonly hit with certain types of disasters, like earthquakes or tornadoes, it might be helpful to begin introducing the topic before a disaster strikes. No matter which type of disaster you need to learn more about, you should find some activities to start with on The Gateway to 21st Century Skills. Through different keyword searches on The Gateway, I found a lot of very creative and challenging activities to help you deal with all different types of disasters. One of the best parts about starting with these catalogued resources is that you can use the standards selection tool to determine how the activities will fit within your state standards.
There are quite a few other lessons and activities online that can complement the lessons you find on The Gateway. The following links are a sample of the variety of resources you might find useful. The FEMA site has a good overview of many types of natural disasters. National Geographic’s Forces of Nature activity allows you to pick a force (tornado, hurricane, earthquake, or volcano) to see pictures, maps, and case studies related to that force of nature. How Stuff Works, a Discovery site, has articles, pictures, and videos to help better explain disasters to your students. The link takes you to the wildfire page, but there are explanations and activities for other disasters as well.
The information and resources in those sites are all very helpful, but there is no replacement for hands-on experimentation of the forces at work in these disasters. This year we have discussed 2 specific types of disasters in our posts: hurricanes and oil spills.
In the study of hurricanes, students saw air pressure demonstrated in a really fun and memorable way as they witnessed an egg “magically” being sucked into a glass bottle. I have seen kids and adults alike watch this demonstration in awe. Once they can explain the scientific principles behind “trick,” they will have a much deeper understanding of how weather systems like hurricanes are formed. Students from kindergarten through junior high tried out the inquiry-based oil spill experiment introduced in our oil spill posts. There are hands-on experiments like this available on the Gateway for other disasters, too. For example, you can build your own tornado with soda bottles here. Finding and implementing activities like this can make your investigation into disasters much more effective and useful for your students. If you know of any activities to use in teaching about disasters, please share. Thanks!
~Peggy's Corner - 10/21/2010~