Being able to study a natural disaster is one of my student’s favorites, and it is definitely one of my favorite lesson plans as well. Looking into earth science topics such as volcanoes or earthquakes can get even the most relucent learners engaged. Over the years, I have searched, created resources for, and taught many different natural disasters activities for the classroom.
Tips For Natural Disasters Activities for the Classroom
After many different versions, I decided I wanted to make sure my students were learning enough information about natural disasters to be able to give an engaging presentation, write a killer informational essay, or create a masterpiece of their choosing. However, after many different versions of worksheets, I realized many more fun and exciting ways to get students excited. After teaching my natural disaster unit for some time, here are some of the things I decided I totally needed to be included in the perfect unit plan.
#1: Complete an introductory activity
I love using mind maps to get students started and help them start thinking about natural disasters. Depending on where you live, some of your students may never have experienced some natural disasters they are about to study. Students in the southwest experience tornados, while the northeast experiences blizzards.
The differences are enormous, and getting an idea of what your students know or don’t know about natural disasters is a great starting point.
Plus, mind maps are super fun for students. They can draw, write, and make connections to their own life/experiences while “dumping” all the information they know on the paper. Creating mind map posters is also an awesome way to allow students to work together in groups and work their way around the room to fill in all they know about the natural disaster.
#2 Use the Cross-Curricular Connections
A natural disaster unit is a perfect time to bring in multiple subjects. You can easily incorporate many learning standards from social studies, language arts, and science. You can even bring in some math!
I have my students read about each natural disaster, take notes, and color code the passage in my classroom. (Read more about this fantastic note-taking technique here.) Students will learn about plate tectonics in studying earthquakes, chemical reactions when it comes to volcanos, and many causes/effects and measurement systems used.
Natural disasters have happened many times throughout history. However, these disasters were awful times. These historical natural disasters are jumping-off points for research papers, projects, or multi-media projects. Teachers are always looking for a way to bring multiple subjects into a lesson or unit, perfect!
#3 Connect to Student’s Lifes
Many students in all grades and ages live in areas where natural disasters happen yearly. Use these connections to help students learn. In addition, having them complete an emergency procedure card for a natural disaster near their home or create one for a disaster they choose to study is a great way to get students to connect to their research and the topic.
Teachers are always trying to relate to their students’ lives and show interest in them. However, this is often a challenging task (we all know that!) The dance crazes, snacks, and slang can feel very out of reach of many of us. But, using events students go through to help them learn makes learning more enjoyable for the students and teachers!
#4 Natural disasters experiments
This is one of my absolute favorite natural disaster activities for the classroom. Students love any opportunity to get hands-on and sometimes even a little dirty. Having paper towels or sponges around may not be bad for some of these experiments. Everyone loves the volcano experiment at the science fair. But why not bring those types of experiments into the classroom to help students learn even more about natural disasters.
A tornado in a bottle can easily show the tornado’s movement, or making students’ hair stand up with static electricity can help them understand lightning. Weather Wiz has some excellent investigations which teachers can easily bring into the classroom for their students to enjoy. Sometimes messy learning is the best learning of all!
Natural Disaster Activities for the Classroom
Natural disasters make an exciting unit or lesson plan, and every child enjoys them each year. Students can dive deep into a natural disaster close to home or across the country. Natural disasters are a fantastic way to incorporate science, history, language arts, and other subjects into your lesson plans, making your teacher heart smile.
Before you go, don’t forget to check out some of my other blog posts are about science: