It can be hard to talk to kids about disasters. The thought of earthquakes destroying entire villages and rendering cities unrecognizable is terrifying, even to adults. The last thing you want to do in your classroom is inspire nightmares!
But in today’s world, it’s hard to stay protected from tragic news, even when we try. Thanks to a constant stream of media at home, in cars, and even in places like restaurants, kids tend to be exposed to the worse news stories. Many of the kids in your classroom have already heard of the 7.9 magnitude earthquake that struck Nepal last week. So what can we do to turn a scary news story into a teachable moment?
Focus on the science of the disaster. What causes earthquakes? The earth’s crust is not one big piece of land. Instead, the crust is made of several huge pieces called plates. These plates move constantly because of pressure from underneath the surface, and sometimes they bump into each other. That’s when an earthquake happens!
Check out these videos that explain earthquakes:
How Stuff Works
Talk about prevention. While we can’t prevent earthquakes, we can limit the damage that results from earthquakes. Engineers design buildings, roads, and bridges to withstand up-and-down and side-to-side shaking, so that when an earthquake hits, the building has a better chance of remaining upright.
For fun engineering activities, visit these sites:
Discuss donating to different causes. Many relief efforts are underway to help people in Nepal. Students can hold school-sponsored bake sales, car washes, and pie auctions to raise money to donate. They can decorate a jar and circulate it among the staff and students to collect spare change to send to an organization. Here are a couple of reputable sites collecting relief funds.
Save the Children
Discuss the statistics. When we hear about people dying in a natural disaster, it’s normal to be frightened that the same thing is going to us. But the actual probability of dying in an earthquake is very, very low: 1 in over 100,000. You actually have a greater chance of being struck by lightning. And those chances have been shrinking every year as we adapt to the danger and plan for emergencies.
Discussing disasters in the classroom is a way to grow empathy and awareness in students. With a combination of science, caring, and usefulness, we can help nurture the next generation of structural engineers and leaders of humanitarian organizations.