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Natural Disasters

Lesson Plans by Oliver Smith

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Volcano Lesson Plans

Student Activities for Natural Disasters Include:

The natural world can be a very dangerous place. In every part of the world, natural disasters can occur that can cause damage to property, land, wildlife, and even humans. A natural disaster is a major event that is caused by natural processes around the world. Natural disasters can have devastating effects on lives and the geography of our planet. In particularly strong cases, they can cause incredible loss of life.


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Natural Disasters Lesson Plans, Student Activities and Graphic Organizers

Examples of Natural Disasters

Natural Disasters Examples
Natural Disasters Examples

Example

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Have your students create a spider diagram storyboard showing a range of different natural disasters. Adjust the required number of examples to fit the needs of your students.


Natural Disaster Examples


Natural DisasterPossible LocationsDescription
Volcanic Eruption Areas nearby active volcanoes, especially near fault lines Volcanic eruptions occur when magma is pushed out onto the Earth’s surface due to high pressure.
Avalanche Mountainous areas where there is snow An avalanche occurs when a large mass of snow and ice slides down a mountainside at high speed.
Hurricane Coastal areas, especially near the equator Hurricanes, also known as typhoons or tropical cyclones, are giant, swirling, tropical storms associated with very high wind speeds.
Heat Wave Most parts of the world A heat wave is a period of excessively high temperatures, often with high humidity.
Drought Most parts of the world, especially during times of high temperatures and low rainfall A drought is when the rainfall in an area is less than average to the point where it has a negative effect on the water supply.
Wildfire Dry forested areas, particularly during the summer Also known as forest fires, wildfires are large uncontrollable fires that are fueled by dry vegetation. Wildfires often occur alongside a drought.
Blizzard Anywhere in the world where falling snow is combined with storms. Blizzards are a type of dangerous snowstorm where there are powerful winds with a minimum speed of 56kph (35mph).
Flood Areas near bodies of water, like the ocean, rivers, or lakes, particularly in low-lying areas A flood is where land is covered by water when it normally is dry. This occurs when a large amount of precipitation or melting ice causes bodies of water to overflow.
Tornado Many parts of the world, most famously in ‘Tornado Alley’ in the Great Plains of the USA Tornadoes are also known as twisters, whirlwinds or cyclones. They are a funnel of rapidly moving air that are in contact with the ground.
Landslide Anywhere with a slope, such as mountains and hills Landslides involve fast moving land that slides down a slope.

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment to Account", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)


Student Instructions

Identify and describe six natural disasters in a spider map storyboard.

  1. Click "Use this Template" from the assignment.
  2. Identify six different natural disasters and write them as the titles of the cells.
  3. Find an image using photos for class to represent each one.
  4. Write a description of each one in the description box underneath the cell.
  5. Save and submit your storyboard. Make sure to use the drop-down menu to save it under the assignment title.


Blank Spider Map - 6 Terms
Blank Spider Map - 6 Terms

Example

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Vocabulary for Natural Disasters

Natural Disasters Vocabulary
Natural Disasters Vocabulary

Example

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Have your students put key vocabulary into practice. One of the things students can find really difficult is using scientific vocabulary correctly and in the appropriate context. Using a visual representation or visual examples as well as a written one can really help students understand abstract concepts.


Example Natural Disasters Vocabulary


Richter Scale

The Richter Scale is a logarithmic scale used to express the magnitude of an earthquake. It ranges from 1 to 10, where 1 can barely be felt, and 10 is near total destruction.


Beaufort Scale

The Beaufort Scale relates wind speed with observable effects of wind. It was developed in 1805 by Francis Beaufort.


Epicenter

The epicenter is the point on the surface of the Earth that is directly above the focus of an earthquake.


Fault Line

A fault line is the boundary between two tectonic plates.


Pyroclastic Flow

The pyroclastic flow is the fast moving mass of hot gas, lava, and rock fragments when a volcano erupts.


Other terms include:

  • avalanche
  • blizzard
  • cataclysm
  • core
  • crust
  • cumulonimbus
  • cyclones
  • earthquake
  • eruption
  • gale
  • hailstones
  • heatwave
  • hurricanes
  • landslide
  • lava
  • mantle
  • plate boundary
  • seismic
  • sinkhole
  • storm
  • tectonic plates
  • thunderstorm
  • tropical storm
  • tsunami
  • twister
  • volcano
  • wildfire

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment to Account", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)


Student Instructions

Demonstrate your understanding of key scientific vocabulary by creating visualizations.

  1. Choose five vocabulary words and type them in the title boxes.
  2. Find the definition in a print or online dictionary and write it under the cell.
  3. Illustrate the meaning of the word in the cell using a combination of scenes, characters, and items.
    • Alternatively, use Photos for Class to give examples of the words.
  4. Save and submit your storyboard. Make sure to use the drop-down menu to save it under the assignment title.


5 Word Vocabulary Template
5 Word Vocabulary Template

Example

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Natural Disasters Discussion Storyboard

Discussion Storyboard - MS - Natural Disasters
Discussion Storyboard - MS -  Natural Disasters

Example

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Discussion storyboards are a great way to get your students talking about their ideas in Science. They allow students to critique and evaluate different viewpoints without upsetting other students. This activity can be used at the start of the topic to elicit any misconceptions students may have.

At first, show students a discussion storyboard like the one below. Ask them to look at the problem on the discussion storyboard. It shows four students who all have an idea about the problem in front of them. Students should think about whom they think is the most correct and be prepared to explain why that person is correct. Students might support their position by creating visuals, including text and images, on Storyboard That. These visuals can easily be exported as PowerPoint slides. After students have prepared their argument, have your students discuss their ideas. This discussion can be carried out in a range of different formats. Students could discuss in pairs, small groups, or even in a teacher-led, whole class setting. It is important to agree on a list of discussion rules with students before they start so everybody gets a chance to participate. Students will also be able to practice adapting their speech to a formal debating context and can demonstrate their grasp of formal English.

Here are some other ideas to use these discussion storyboards in your lessons.

  1. Students add another cell on the end of the example you’ve given them to explain whom they think is correct and why.
  2. Students create a storyboard to describe why a student is incorrect, and then "teach" the concept.
  3. Students create their own discussion storyboards to share with peers on the current topic.

Note that the template in this assignment is blank. After clicking "Copy Assignment", add your desired problem and solutions to match the needs of your students.

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment to Account", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)


Student Instructions

Read the discussion storyboard that shows four students who all have an idea about the problem in front of them. You are going to give your opinion on whom you think is correct and explain why. You will use your created storyboard to engage in discussion with your peers.


  1. Click "Use this Template" from the assignment.
  2. Add another cell at the end of the row.
  3. Use text and images to explain whom you think is correct and why.
  4. Save and submit the assignment. Make sure to use the drop-down menu to save it under the assignment title.


Discussion Storyboard - Blank
Discussion Storyboard - Blank

Example

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Label the Volcano

Label a Volcano
Label a Volcano

Example

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In this activity students will label a model of a volcano using Storyboard That.

  • Ash, Steam, and Gas - cloud which is pushed out of the volcano
  • Secondary Cone - a cone that builds up around secondary vents
  • Secondary Vent - place where magma reaches the surface without going through the main vent
  • Crater - circular depression at the top of the volcano
  • Magma Chamber - store of underground magma
  • Main Vent - main tube that connects the magma chamber to the surface
  • Lava - molten rock after it reaches the surface
  • Magma - molten rock still underneath the ground
  • Volcanic Bombs - rocks and larger debris that are thrown into the air during an eruption

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment to Account", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)


Student Instructions

You are going to demonstrate your knowledge of volcanoes by labeling a diagram of a volcano.


  1. Click "Use this Template" from the assignment.
  2. Search for ‘volcano’, drag and drop the diagram into a cell.
  3. Use Textables and arrows to label the major parts of the volcano and describe what they are.
  4. Save and submit the assignment. Make sure to use the drop-down menu to save it under the assignment title.


Large Single Cell Diagram
Large Single Cell Diagram

Example

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Natural Disaster Action Plan

Earthquake Action Plan
Earthquake Action Plan

Example

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Using Storyboard That, have your students create an action plan detailing what someone should do if they are in an earthquake.

An earthquake occurs when tectonic plates get stuck and store a large amount of potential energy. When this energy gets to be too great, the plates slip, releasing this energy and causing seismic waves. The seismic waves can vary in size. Some are so small that only delicate instruments can detect them, while others are very large and can cause great damage to building and infrastructure and injury to people.

Being stuck in an earthquake can be a terrifying experience which can cause panic. It is important to have an action plan so you know what to do should an earthquake hit. Have your students create a visual action plan showing what a person should do in the event of an earthquake.

It is recommended that if you are inside, you don’t leave the building until the shaking stops. Try to get as close to the ground as possible. When you are on your knees, cover your head and neck with your hands to protect yourself from anything falling. You should place yourself away from outside walls, windows, shelves, or anything else that can fall on you. If possible, try to hide under a sturdy desk or table. If you are in bed, you should stay there and cover your head with a pillow. If you are outside, find a place that is away from buildings, trees, or utility cables. If you are driving, stop as quickly as possible away from anything that could fall. Make sure you stay inside your car.

After an earthquake has finished, try to move to open ground if there is a safe and clear exit. If you are trapped, don’t move around; if you have your cell phone, call or text for help. Assist others if you can and make sure you monitor local TV news and radio for updates. After earthquakes, there are often aftershocks, so be prepared to drop and cover if one happens.

Check out https://www.ready.gov/earthquakes for more information.


Alternatively, have your students make visual action plans for other natural disasters such as a hurricane or volcanic eruption.

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment to Account", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)


Student Instructions

Create a narrative storyboard explaining what you should do during an earthquake.


  1. Click "Use this Template" from the assignment.
  2. Use a series of scenes, characters, props, shapes and Textables to create a narrative storyboard detailing what you should do (or should not do) during an Earthquake.
  3. Save and submit the assignment. Make sure to use the drop-down menu to save it under the assignment title.


Blank Cell with Description
Blank Cell with Description

Example

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Natural Disasters

Hurricane

Hurricanes are also known as cyclones or typhoons, depending on the area of the world. Meteorologists normally refer to them as tropical cyclones. Hurricanes consist of an area of calm at the core, know as the eye of the storm, surrounded by a swirling, fast-moving vortex of wind and rain storms. Hurricanes occur when groups of thunderstorms drift over warm oceans. The warm air from the storm and air at the surface of the ocean begin to rise. As the air rises, it creates an area of low pressure at the surface of the ocean. Trade winds blowing from different directions cause the storm to start spinning. As the warm air continues to rise, it causes the areas of low pressure to get higher and higher. The air rises faster and faster, pulling in cooler air downwards towards the ocean. The storm moves across the ocean this process continues to happen and the wind speeds increase. If luck is on your side the hurricane dies before it reaches land but when it doesn’t they can be very destructive. The deadliest tropical cyclone was the 1970 Bhola Cyclone that killed up to 500,000 people in modern day Bangladesh. It had peak winds of 185 km/h (115 mph), some of the highest ever recorded during a tropical cyclone.


Tornadoes

Tornadoes, like hurricanes, are also known for high wind speed and destruction. Tornadoes are also known as twisters, whirlwinds, or cyclones. They are a funnel of rapidly moving air that are in contact with the surface of the earth. They occur when humid air is heated and starts to rise. As this moist air meets cold air, it can form thunder clouds. This can cause a thunderstorm. The upward movement of air combined with winds from other directions can cause the air to rotate, sometimes causing the visible ‘twister’ funnel form out of the bottom of the cloud. They can last a just a few seconds or it can be up to over an hour before they dissipate. The fastest wind speed ever recorded from a tornado (and the fastest wind speed ever recorded) was the Bridge Creek-Moore tornado in 1999 where wind speeds of 484 km/h (300 mph) were measured. The United States, on average, has the most tornadoes each year, but they can be found all over the world. In the US, they are mostly found in the great plains, colloquially known as Tornado Alley.


Earthquakes

The Earth’s crust is broken up into pieces known as tectonic plates. These plates sit on a semi-molten layer called the mantle. Uneven heating in the mantle causes convection currents which cause the tectonic plates to move. These tectonic plates don’t always move with each other smoothly. Earthquakes are caused by sudden jolts in tectonic plates. Thousands of earthquakes happen every day, but most of them are too small for humans to notice and they are only detected by a sensitive scientific instrument known as a seismometer. When they are large enough, earthquakes can destroy whole cities, but they mainly occur around fault lines. The largest Earthquake ever recorded happened on May 22, 1960 in Valdivia, Chile. It measured 9.5 on the moment magnitude scale. Between 1,000 and 6,000 people lost their lives. The quake triggered landslides in the valleys of the Andes and a huge Tsunami which traveled westward across the Pacific Ocean and caused loss of life in Hawaii. Find more content in the lesson plans for the Structure of the Earth and Plate Tectonics.


Tsunami

Tsunamis can occur from earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, or explosions under the ocean. The seismic waves can jolt the seabed, which can displace huge amounts of water in the ocean. This causes large waves to spread from the epicenter. In deep water, the waves move quickly; when they reach shallow coastal areas, they slow down but their height increases. These waves could cause huge destruction when they reach land.


Avalanche

An avalanche occurs when a large amount of snow and ice slides down a slope rapidly. This can be caused as snow and ice starts to build up and there are weaker layers underneath. The dangers are the fast moving snow will bury whatever or whoever is in its path. Sometimes small avalanches are triggered on purpose in a controlled way to make some mountainous areas safer. They do this when the build up of snow is small so as not to cause damage or injury.


Volcanoes

Most volcanoes are very safe. They only really become dangerous during a volcanic eruption. There are hundreds of potentially active volcanoes around the world, most of which are found along the fault lines of the earth. At some boundaries between tectonic plates, magma can rise up and find its way to the upper crust. The molten rock is known as magma when it is under the earth, and lava when it reaches the surface. If it can reach the surface it is known as a volcano. After successive eruptions, the lava cools and forms the cone shape of a volcano. Volcanoes erupt when the pressure of the magma below in the magma chamber is so great, it can break through the rock at the top of the volcano. As the volcano erupts large rocks are thrown into the air along with a hot cloud of rock and ash. This cloud of ash, known as a pyroclastic flow, moves quickly like an avalanche and can engulf everything in its path. The worst volcanic eruption in history was the 1815 eruption of Tambora, Indonesia that killed around 90,000 people.


Heat Wave

A heatwave is a period of excessively high temperatures, often with high humidity. High temperatures can have negative effects on people’s health and can even cause death. Heatwaves can also cause mass power outages as many people turn up their air conditioning.


Drought

A drought is characterized when the rainfall in an area is less than average to the point where there is a negative effect on the water supply. This can have a large impact on agriculture as crops cannot grow without water. This can potentially lead to famine as farmers can’t produce enough food for everyone. A lack of water can lead to mass migration of people and animals as they go in search of areas with more water.


Landslide

Landslides, also known as landslips, can vary massively in their size and destruction, but they always involve the movement of land. Landslides occur when the ground on a slope becomes less stable. This could happen due to a number of reasons including erosion, groundwater flow, and deforestation. The triggers for landslide including any seismic activity from earthquakes or volcanoes, or vibrations from heavy machinery. They have the potential for a large amount of damage and loss of life if residential areas are in the path of the flow of land.


Wildfire

Wildfires or forest fires can be started by natural causes, such as lightning, but also by humans. Sometimes humans start them intentionally to clear brush, but also wildfires start accidentally. Wildfires have been caused by cigarettes, grills that haven’t been extinguished properly, and campfires that haven’t been managed properly. They can be extremely difficult to stop once they have started and can destroy large areas of forestland. Often firefighters will use ‘waterbombers’, or aircraft that can spray water from the air over large areas of forest.


Blizzard

Blizzards are a type of dangerous snowstorm where there are powerful winds with a minimum speed of 56 kph (35 mph). These storms typically last a number of hours and results in low visibility, making driving very dangerous. There is a danger to life as blizzards are associated with very low temperatures and snowdrifts which can shut down whole towns and cities.


Flood

Floods can occur for a number of different reasons at many times throughout the year. Simply put, a flood is when land is covered by water when it normally isn’t covered by water. This can occur whenever there is a large amount of precipitation or melting ice that causes a lake, river, or ponds to overflow. Often with heavy rain the rivers and natural drainage cannot cope with the rate of water flow. The moving water can cause debris to block drains making it even more difficult for the water to more freely. Floods can cause extensive damage to property and can also cause loss of life. The worst flood ever recorded happened in China in 1937 where between one million and four million people died.


Essential Questions for Natural Disasters

  1. What is a natural disaster?
  2. What are examples of different natural disasters?
  3. Why do natural disasters occur?
  4. What can we do to prevent/survive a natural disaster?
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Other Lesson Plan Ideas for Natural Disasters

  1. Create a T-Chart to compare the causes and effects of two different natural disasters.
  2. Create a Richter scale (or moment magnitude scale) showing the effects of different magnitudes of earthquakes.
  3. Create a timeline showing advances in technology which helps protect us from injury during a particular natural disaster.

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•   (English) Natural Disasters   •   (Español) Desastres Naturales   •   (Français) Catastrophes Naturelles   •   (Deutsch) Naturkatastrophen   •   (Italiana) Disastri Naturali   •   (Nederlands) Natuurrampen   •   (Português) Desastres Naturais   •   (עברית) אסונות טבע   •   (العَرَبِيَّة) الكوارث الطبيعية   •   (हिन्दी) प्राकृतिक आपदा   •   (ру́сский язы́к) Стихийные Бедствия   •   (Dansk) Naturkatastrofer   •   (Svenska) Naturkatastrofer   •   (Suomi) Luonnonkatastrofit   •   (Norsk) Naturkatastrofer   •   (Türkçe) Doğal Afetler   •   (Polski) Klęski Żywiołowe   •   (Româna) Dezastre Naturale   •   (Ceština) Přírodní Katastrofy   •   (Slovenský) Prírodné Katastrofy   •   (Magyar) A Természeti Katasztrófák   •   (Hrvatski) Prirodne Katastrofe   •   (български) Природни Бедствия   •   (Lietuvos) Stichinės Nelaimės   •   (Slovenščina) Naravne Nesreče   •   (Latvijas) Dabas Katastrofas   •   (eesti) Looduskatastroofid