There are very few natural disaster resources available for middle school teachers. Activities about earthquakes, hurricanes, and wildfires are often too babyish for middle school students and rarely address the standards that middle school teachers need to reach.
The Next Generation Science Standards for middle school includes MS-ESS3-2 which asks students to be aware of the natural hazards in a region and to understand the geologic forces that occur with those natural hazards. Some middle school science curricula have a unit devoted specifically to natural disasters, but I teach natural disasters in a more coordinated way. My students learn about earthquakes when we study plate tectonics. They learn about wildfires when we study climate change. And they learn about hurricanes in our weather unit. The natural disaster resources I use include workbooks, hands on activities, and models.
Teaching earthquakes in middle school varies by geographic region. Areas where earthquakes are common will treat the topic differently than areas where earthquakes are rare.
Two natural disaster resources that I use to teach earthquakes:
Where are earthquakes and volcanoes? This mapping activity has students using latitude and longitude to identify the locations of some major earthquakes and volcanoes. This activity is great for map skills review and it fits nicely into an introduction into the location of the plate boundaries.
Earthquake Workbook. This resource is a 23 page workbook that will work digitally or printed. It includes information about earthquake detection and prediction as well as the types of seismic waves. Digital and printable workbooks have been a lifesaver this year since I often have students quarantined and need to provide activities and resources for them to complete at home.
Students are highly curious about wildfires. If you live in a wildfire-prone area, your students are all too aware of the dangers of a wildfire, but, even if your students have never seen a wildfire in person it’s likely that they’ve seen the news coverage every year.
The resource that I use to teach about wildfires is a workbook. It has digital and print versions, again to make it easier for quarantined students and for schools still in pandemic flux. Students can complete the workbook independently over several days. In the workbook, students will learn about the main causes of wildfires and how they are impacted by climate change. Students will also learn about ways to battle wildfires and how controlled fires work to prevent wildfires. This resource works well alone but it also coordinates well with current events or climate change.
There are many resources about hurricanes available on TpT and other sources, but few are suitable for middle schoolers. Coloring pages and word finds don’t help my middle schoolers understand the causes and effects of hurricanes, so I needed something with a little more content in it. The hurricane workbook that I use is 19 pages and includes information on how air pressure, wind, and global winds are related to hurricanes as well as the development of a hurricane and how they are named. Students can work independently on this activity either in school or at home because it is offered as a printable and digital resource.
I also use a hurricane tracking activity in which students use the latitude and longitude of Hurricane Laura to map its movement across the Gulf of Mexico. This activity is completely digital and ask students to decide if a hurricane warning or hurricane watch is appropriate for each location throughout the storm’s development.
Do you teach natural resources alone or in conjunction with other content? What natural resources would you like to see a middle school appropriate workbook for? Let me know!