Title: Disasters 203

Key Word: disasters

National Standard: 15 (How physical systems affect human systems)

State Standard: 14 (Connections between Earth's physical and human systems)

Teaching Level: Middle School

Introduction: Disasters frequently receive great attention by the media. Accounts of these disasters sometimes fail to focus students' attention on the widespread impact of disasters. This lesson draws attention to the effects of the ten worst disasters in U.S. history.

Objective: Students will understand that natural and man-made disasters affect life and property.

Materials: Handout "Great Disasters" for each student. Handout "Effects of the Disaster" for each student and the teacher.

Procedure: Have the chart "Effects of the Disaster" drawn on the chalkboard before class begins.
Ask students to state the worst disaster they know. Together, try to develop criteria for defining "worst."

Distribute handout "Great Disasters." Give students time to read and reflect on the information. Discuss students' prior knowledge of the disasters being sure to include the criteria for inclusion on this list.

Sort the disasters into two categories: 1.Those that were caused by man and 2.Those that were caused by nature. Discuss the divisions. Notice that regardless of the cause, the effects are far-reaching.

Direct students' attention to the chart on the chalkboard. Develop a headline together. Example: Valdez Dumps Millions of Gallons of Oil into the ocean, and write it on the chart. Ask four students to be recorders, one for each column on the chart. Have students orally contribute ideas as the four recorders take notes in appropriate columns. Example:

Valdez Dumps Millions of Gallons of Oil into the Ocean

Forms of Life Affected Property Affected Psychological Effects Other Effects

birds beaches captain's reputation waste disposal
fish Exxon Oil Co. image of Exxon safety hazards
plant ocean fear of future spills jobs lost
krill ship fear of long term effects new rules discussed

Distribute a copy of "Effects of the Disaster." Direct students to choose one disaster from their list, and complete the chart for that disaster. Share ideas from these charts, encouraging students to add appropriate ideas to their charts, as suggested by other students.

Draw conclusions. Some examples are: The extent of damage caused by disaster is not easily measured. Both man-made and natural disasters can have far-reaching effects.

Evaluation/Assessment: Illustrate or write about a disaster that has not been discussed in class. Include the cause and effects on life and property.

Extension/Enrichment: Map the location of the disasters on a U.S. map. Discuss how geographic features influence the location of historical events.
Develop an emergency plan to be used in the event of a disaster.

Reflection: How successful was this lesson? Did all students benefit? Were there any surprises? What might you do differently another time? Please note any changes that will make this lesson more effective and useful in the future and pass them along to NHGA. We appreciate your comments.
Thank you
The authors

Handout # 1
( Heading for a full page)

Effects of the Disaster


Forms of Life Affected Property Affected Psychological Effects Other Effects
Handout # 2

Great Disasters
The following lists are not all-inclusive due to space limitations. Only disasters involving great loss of life and or property, historical interest, or unusual circumstances are listed. Data as of Aug. 1, 1996 from Information Please Almanac Atlas and yearbook, 1997 50th Edition, Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston and New York, 1997.

Worst United States Disasters

1996 July 17, New York: 747 Airliner Crashes in Atlantic; 230 Perish: T.W.A. Flight 800 plunges in flames off Long Island after taking off from J.F.K. Airport for Paris. Cause of crash a mystery.

1979 May 25, Chicago: American Airline DC-10 lost left engine upon takeoff and crashed seconds later, killing all 272 persons board and three on the ground in worst U.S. air disaster.

1928 March 12, Santa Paula, Calif.: collapse of St. Francis Dam left 450 dead.

1930s Many states: Longest drought of the 20th century. Peak periods were 1930, 1934, 1936, 1939, and 1940. During 1934, dry regions stretched solidly from New York and Pennsylvania across the Great Plains to the California coast. A great "dust bowl" covered some 50 million acres in the south central plains during the winter of 1935-1936.

1906 April 18, San Francisco: earthquake accompanied by fire razed more than 4 sq. mi.: more than 500 dead or missing

1918 Nationwide: Spanish influenza killed over 500,000 Americans

1947 April 16-18, Texas City, Texas: Most of the city destroyed by a fire and subsequent explosion on the French freighter Grandcamp carrying a cargo of ammonium nitrate. At least 516 were killed and over 3,00 injured.

1871 Oct. 8, Peshtigo, Wis.: over 1,200 lives lost and 2 billion trees burned in forest fire.

1889 May 31, Johnstown, PA.: more than 2,200 died in flood

1900 Aug. 27-Sept. 15, Galveston, Tex.: over 6,ooo died from devastation due to both winds and tidal wave.
Great Disasters (cont'd)
1865 April 27, Sultana: boiler explosion on Mississippi River steamboat near Memphis, 1,547 killed.

1907 Dec.6, Monongha, W. VA.: coal mine explosion killed 361.

Oil Spill
1989 Mar. 24, Prince William Sound, Alaska: Tanker, Exxon Valdez, hit an undersea reef and released 10 million plus gallons of oil into the waters, causing the worst oil spill in U.S. history.

1918 July 9, Nashville, Tenn.: 101 killed in a two-train collision near Nashville.

1963 April 10, Thresher: atomic powered submarine sank in North Atlantic: 129 dead.

Terrorist Attack
1995 April 19, Oklahoma City: Terrorist car bomb exploded outside Federal office building, collapsing wall and floors. 168 persons were killed, including 19 children and one person who died in rescue effort. Over 220 buildings sustained damaged. Bombing motive believed to be revenge for the deaths of Branch Davidians in the Waco, Texas compound, April 19, 1993, resulting from a botched assault by government agents. It is the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil.

1925 March 18, Great Tri-State Tornado: Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana: 695 deaths. Eight additional tornadoes in Kentucky, Tennessee, and Alabama raised day's toll to 792 dead

Winter Storm1888
March 11-14, East Coast: The Blizzard of 1888. 400 people died, as much as 5 feet of snow. Damage was estimated as $20 million.

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