This month, we’re exploring natural disasters. In my reading, I explored a few different types of disasters.
The Science of an Avalanche (21st Century Skills Library: Disaster Science)
by Carol Hand (2015)
This book does a good job of covering the science behind avalanches. This is a rather traditional NF book that looks at different kinds of avalanches, ways to prevent them, and how people are rescued from them.
Extreme Earthquakes and Tsunamis (When Nature Attacks)
by John Farndon (2018)
This is a browseable book with lots of images to explain where and why earthquakes and tsunamis happen.
Hurricane Harvey: Disaster in Texas and Beyond
by Rebecca Felix (2018)
This book introduces readers to hurricanes through the lens of one devastating hurricane: 2017’s Hurricane Harvey.
While there are many ways these books can tie into other lessons, I found myself focusing on data analysis and communication. I also wondered about science experiments related to the topics and found a few that are easy to explore either at home or at school.
Map It Out
Each book includes a list of the most extreme occurrences of the natural disasters it covers. Map out these locations on a national or global map.
To take this even further, think about how to convey more than just a location. How would you represent different types of disasters, when they happened, and the severity of each event?
Sometimes, an area is hit with multiple disasters at the same time. How do you communicate data on multiple disasters in the same place at the same time? This happened in 2020. To read about the issue and how communicators dealt with it, check out this write-up: https://www.census.gov/library/stories/2021/01/challenge-of-mapping-disaster-areas-during-national-emergency.html
You don’t need to restrict yourself to the information contained in the books. There are lots of other resources out there for exploring natural disaster data, predictions, and mapping. This site covers many different types of hazards: https://www.ngdc.noaa.gov/hazard/hazards.shtml. Links to specific types of natural disasters are listed below.
Pick an idea you want to convey with the data. Would you like to show the most severe events in a specific state, region, or country? How many events do you want to show? What time period do you want to cover? Are you focusing on one specific location or type of event? Do you want to see trends over time?
The information you want to convey should drive how you will show the data. Make sure to include a key and whatever other information a reader will need to interpret the data you are showing.
The U.S. Geological Survey has this website, dedicated to data and information related to earthquakes: https://earthquake.usgs.gov.
Map out the largest earthquake events logged in the past month. Practice searching for and looking at data by finding the earthquake nearest your home/school or in your state in the past year. (https://earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/search)
Investigate earthquake hazard maps. What are they and what to they tell you? Here are a few places to look for answers.
Here are a few resources where you can explore avalanche data/mapping.
To explore information and mapping for both current and historic hurricanes.
For information on tsunami mapping, check out these sites.
Explore The Science
Each book talks about the science behind the natural disasters. Explore this further by conducting a science experiment. Practice science communication skills by documenting the experiment. Make sure enough information is included so that another scientist could replicate it.
To explore liquefaction, which can happen during earthquakes, check out this experiment.
This activity recreates a tsunami in a 2-liter bottle.
Make a Seismograph
Scientists detect earthquakes using sophisticated seismographs. There are lots of different ideas for making a basic seismograph at home or in the classroom. Here are a few:
Make Artistic Waves
The Great Wave is a famous woodcut print by Japanese artist Hokusai. While not necessarily depicting a tsunami, it does show a giant wave. There are lots of different ways to explore the art of the great wave. Here are a few:
Learn About Mr. Tornado
PBS’s American Experience has a program about Ted Fujita, aka Mr. Tornado. It is a very interesting show about the man behind the F-scale used to classify tornadoes.
Janet Slingerland loves learning about science, history, nature, and (well) everything, which she then turns into a book. To find out more about Janet and her books, check out her website: janetsbooks.com