Science and Technology
Understanding Structures And Mechanisms:
Natural Emergencies and Personal Safety
80 minutes (can be divided over two days)
Work together to create tornado safety posters using the appropriate conventions and techniques for this type of media text. The posters will be used to help other Grade Five students and others learn about what a tornado is, what type of damage it can cause and how to stay safe during a tornado.
The Grade Five learners will:
- Analyse the effects of forces from natural phenomena on the natural and built environment
- Produce a variety of media texts for specific purposes and audiences, using appropriate forms, conventions, and techniques
a) Learners – Required Prior Learning
- Students must know how to communicate a message to a specific audience by means of a poster (appropriate conventions and techniques)
- Students need to know about various media forms
- Students must have prior experience with group work
- Students must have research skills
- Students must be able to identify key information within a written text
b) Learning Environment
- The teacher will conduct the lesson from the from of the classroom
- The students will complete the assignment in groups and will find a place to work together in the classroom
- Blackboard/whiteboard and chalk/marker
- Copy of Is It A Natural Disaster? Card Set (attached)
- Poster board (one piece per group)
- Markers, pencil crayons, glue, scissors, old magazines, lined paper for notes
- Two sets of pictures that depict the damage earthquakes and tornadoes cause to the natural and built environments
- Picture of bridge collapse from an earthquake, picture of earth cracked open from earthquake (one copy)
- Picture of building damaged in tornado, picture of a piece of wood thrown threw a tree from tornado (one copy per group)
- Variety of books and/or verified web site links about earthquakes/tornadoes
- Variety of brochures/handout/verified web site links about how to stay safe in earthquakes/tornadoes
- Copy of Earthquake/Tornado information sheets (attached)
- Internet access (if available)
Introduction to natural disasters
b) Establishing the Learning
Identifying “built” environment versus “natural” environment
Analysis of the impact of an earthquake on the built environment
Analysis of the impact of an earthquake on the “natural” environment
Recognition that the analysis of how a natural disaster impacts the built and natural environments comes with research and an understanding of the natural disaster itself
Identification of where to go to find information about a natural disaster (i.e., earthquakes)
Recognizing the importance of being prepared for a natural disaster like an earthquake
Write “Natural Disasters” on the board and leave space below. Ask the students if anyone can define what a natural disaster is.
Natural Disaster – An emergency situation caused by a force of nature
Hand each student an emergency card from the Is It A Natural Disaster? card set and have them decide whether it is a natural disaster by going to one side of the classroom designed “YES” or one side of the classroom designated “NO”. Ask each student what their card says and correct them if they have gone to the wrong side of the room. Record the names of all natural emergencies on the board under the Natural Disaster heading.
Emphasize that natural emergencies can cause things like power outages and train derailments but power outages and train derailments are not natural disasters (they are technological emergencies).
Circle Earthquakes and Tornadoes. Explain that these are the two natural disasters the students will deal with for this activity.
Clarify the difference between the built environment (buildings, bridges, roads – built by people) and natural environment (trees, landscape, land cover – occurring in nature) with students.
Show the students a picture of the damage caused by an earthquake (bridge collapse) and ask students if they know what type of natural disaster caused this damage. When the students know it was caused by an earthquake, ask them what other damage an earthquake can cause to the built environment. The answers should be recorded on the board under a heading of “Earthquakes – Built Environment”.
Possible Answers: cracks in foundation/walls, collapsed buildings, broken windows, cracked/raised/sunken roadways, chimneys fallen off, fires due to cracked gas lines, power/telephone lines down etc.
Show the students a picture of the damage caused by an earthquake (crack in earth) and ask students if they know what type of natural disaster caused this damage. When the students know it was also caused by an earthquake, ask them what other damage an earthquake can cause to the natural environment. The answers should be recorded on the board under a heading of “Earthquakes – Natural Environment”.
Answers: trees down, a change in height of ground, pieces of the ground disappearing, ground not lining up with what it lined up with previously etc.
Ask the students how they knew what an earthquake could do to the natural and built environments, even if they have never been in an earthquake. The students should realize that they have an understanding of what an earthquake is and what it can do from various sources (news stories, movies, their own reading, from stories of friends/relative that have experienced an earthquake). Students should understand that they are able to confirm their understanding of what happens to the built and natural environments during an earthquake by researching the information in book, recognized information materials and/or the Internet.
Provide students with information about where to get reliable information about natural disasters (in this case earthquakes) on the Internet
Explain that the best way to avoid injury and sometimes reduce the damage to property is to know about the types of natural disasters that can happen in the community where you live and to prepare for them. Hand out a copy of the Earthquake information sheet and review it with the class very briefly. Point out to students that the information sheet describes what an earthquake is, provides information about the damage/danger that an earthquake can cause and provides information about how to stay safe in an earthquake.
Consolidation of Learning
Ask the students the following “quick-check” questions:
- What is a “built” environment and what is a “natural” environment?
- How can we analyse the impact of an earthquake on the built and natural environment
- Where can we go to find out more about natural disasters?
- Why is it important to know about the natural disasters that can happen in your community?
Tell students that tornadoes are a natural disaster that can happen anywhere in Ontario.
Students are to work in groups of three or four and design a poster for students in grade 5 and higher that explains:
- What a tornado is
- What kind of damage a tornado can do to the built and natural environment
- What you should do to stay safe in a tornado
Students will have to use the appropriate conventions and techniques (studied in an earlier lesson) for creating the poster. If needed, quickly review these using an unrelated poster.
Students will be provided with two pictures to get them thinking about how a tornado impacts the built (photo of building damaged by tornado) and natural (photo of tree with wooded board through its trunk) environments. Students will also be provided with a Tornado Information Sheet and some verified Internet resources to refer to. A variety of books on tornadoes will also be made available for there use. Students should be told how the poster will be evaluated (see Evaluation section below).
Students can use markers, pencil crayons and photos/phrases from old magazines on their posters. Students can decide how much information to put in text form and how much in picture form.
Students will be given 60 minutes of class time to research their information and complete the poster. Encourage students to plan out how the group members will spend their time and to divide tasks where possible.
Observe students throughout the lesson and circulate throughout the application activity. Make note of any student who appears to be having difficulty or requires assistance to complete the assignment. Ensure each student is participating as a member of the group and that work among group members is shared appropriately. Marks for an individual student may have to be adjusted if that student fails to participate as part of the group or requires assistance to complete the assignment.
The posters will be assessed using the attached rubric (this information needs to be provided to students before beginning the posters).
Additional Related Activities
- Try building a structure designed to withstand high wind gust and test it next to a fan
- Discuss how engineers build earthquake-resistant buildings
- Discuss how urban planning can help to reduce the impact of natural disasters (refrain from building on certain soils in earthquake-prone areas to reduce damage, do not build hospitals on fault lines)
What is an Earthquake?
An earthquake is caused when rock breaks or shifts suddenly making the ground shake. Depending on how big the earthquake is, the shaking may continue for many seconds, or several minutes. An earthquake can cause damage to buildings, roads and bridges and can trigger landslides and tsunamis (water waves).
Aftershocks are smaller earthquakes that happen hours, days or weeks after a big earthquake (mainshock). Aftershocks can cause more damage to buildings, roads and bridges that have been weakened by the mainshock.
Earthquakes are most common in south-eastern Ontario, but it is important to remember that earthquakes can and have happened in other parts of Ontario.
How Do We Know When An Earthquake Will Happen?
Scientists know where earthquakes are more likely to happen but they do not know when they will happen. Earthquakes can happen at any time of day and at any time of year.
This is why it is important to know if you live in a community that is at greater risk for an earthquake. If your community is more likely to get an earthquake, make sure that you learn how to prepare for an earthquake before one happens.
How Can I Stay Safe If There Is An Earthquake?
There are things you can do to help make sure that you stay safe in an earthquake. Here are some things to remember:
- Prepare an emergency survival kit and prepare a family emergency plan.
- Learn about whether earthquakes are likely to happen in your community. Ask your parents/guardians to call your local Community Emergency Management Coordinator (CEMC) and ask if your community is likely to get an earthquake. If so, they should find out if they have any information about how to prepare for earthquakes.
- Fasten bookcases, cabinets and other tall furniture to the wall. In an earthquake, these items can fall over and cause damage or hurt someone. Ask your parents/guardians to fasten tall furniture to the wall.
- Move any items that might fall (televisions, books, computers etc.). Items that fall in an earthquake can cause damage or hurt someone. Ask your parents/guardians to move any items that could fall.
- Hang mirrors and pictures away from beds, chairs or where people sit. Earthquakes can cause things to fall off walls. Mirrors and pictures could fall on someone and hurt them if they are hanging over places where people sit/sleep.
- Find safe places in every room in your home. You want to move around as little as possible in an earthquake. The shaking of an earthquake makes walking or standing difficult. If you have a safe place in every room, you won’t need to move far.
- If you are indoors in an earthquake, drop, cover and hold. Go under a table or desk. Hold on to one of the legs and cover your head. If there is nothing to duck under, crouch in an interior corner of the room or in a doorway. Do not run outside in an earthquake. It is a good idea to walk around your home before an earthquake happens and decide where to go in each room.
- Wait in your safe place until the shaking stops. When the shaking stops move very carefully and watch for things that have broken or have moved. Be ready for smaller earthquakes called aftershocks that could cause more damage.
- If you are outside in an earthquake, stay outside. Move away from buildings, trees and power lines and crouch down and cover your head. Stay away from any objects that could fall and hurt you.
Earthquake Web Sites
Is It A Natural Disaster?
(Cut these cards out ready to use before lesson)
What is a Tornado?
Some severe thunderstorms can produce tornadoes. A tornado is a cone of spinning air that comes out of a cloud and touches the ground. Tornadoes are most likely to happen May through September but they can happen at other times of the year too. Most tornadoes happen in the afternoon or early evening.
Tornadoes are dangerous because they can move quickly and they can produce very strong winds that can damage trees and homes. The objects picked up by a tornado, can be dangerous when they are thrown around by the tornado. Tornadoes can damage power lines and telephone lines so there may be power outages and telephones may not work. If power lines are lying on the ground they can be very dangerous.
How Will I Know If There Is Going To Be A Tornado?
Environment Canada lets people know when tornadoes may happen by putting out a Tornado Watch, or a Tornado Warning. The Tornado Watch or Warning is then broadcast by local radio stations, local television news/weather stations and on weather radio. A Tornado Watch and a Tornado Warning are different.
Tornado Watch – Severe thunderstorms have developed and may be able to produce tornadoes.
Tornado Warning – A severe thunderstorm has produced a tornado or tornadoes.
If a Tornado Watch has been issued for your community, it means you should prepare for a tornado (bring in lawn furniture, change outdoor plans, bring pets indoors etc.). You should also make sure to listen to the radio in case the Watch is updated to a Warning.
If a Tornado Warning has been issued for your community, it means you should be prepared and a tornado could happen at any time.
Sometimes, tornadoes can happen when no warning has been put out by Environment Canada. There are tornado danger signs you should watch for, especially during a bad thunderstorm. Things to watch for include:
- A dark green, yellow or black sky
- A cloud in the sky that looks like in has a dipping tail
- A cloud that is moving in circles
- A load freight train-like sound
How Can I Stay Safe If There Is A Tornado?
There are things you can do to make sure that you stay safe in a tornado. Here are some things to remember:
- Prepare an emergency survival kit and prepare a family emergency plan.
- Learn about whether tornadoes are likely to happen in your community. Ask your parents/guardians to call your local Community Emergency Management Coordinator (CEMC) and ask if your community is likely to get tornadoes. If so, find out if they have any information about how to prepare for a tornado.
- Stay informed. When the weather begins to look dangerous, listen to the radio and/or tune into local television news stations. It is best not to use televisions and other things that require electricity during a thunderstorm. Sometimes, if conditions are right, lightning can travel through wires and pipes and cause damage to property and/or injure people. In a thunderstorm, use a battery-operated or crank radio to find out what is happening.
- Find out where the safest place in your house/apartment to be in a tornado. It is best to go to the lowest level of a house (the basement is best), find a space away from windows or tall furniture and get under a large piece of furniture. If you do not have a basement, go to the lowest level and find an area with no windows. A hallway in the middle of your house or a small room like a cupboard or bathroom is best. In a very tall building, you may not have time to get to the lowest floor so it is best to go to a hallway in the middle of the building.
- If you hear or see a tornado coming or a Tornado Warning has been put out, go to a safe place right away. Tornadoes can move very fast.
- If you are in a car or mobile home, go to the basement of a close building. Cars and mobile homes can be picked up and tossed around by a tornado. They are not safe places to be.
- If you are in a car or mobile home and there are not any buildings nearby, lie flat in a low spot on the ground. Cars and mobile homes can be picked up and tossed by a tornado. It is safer to lie flat and let stuff in the air from the tornado blow above you.