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Teaching resources for the Japanese earthquake and tsunami

By Eric Brunsell

Posted on 2011-03-14

The devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan is on the minds of all of us, including our students. The event and aftermath is tragic and the continuing nuclear emergency is a reminder of how fragile society can be. As educators, we can help our students make sense of these events and give them the opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of their world.
In their book, Comprehension and Collaboration, Daniels and Harvey provide a comprehensive vision of what inquiry can look like in the classroom. They describe the following components that can easily be used to bring the Japanese earthquake into your classroom.

Immerse: Invite Curiosity and Wonder
Introduce the topic by asking your students what they already know about the disaster. Follow this by brainstorming a list of “wonderings” that students have. You may want to set the context for the discussion by reading a small excerpt from a news article or by showing a video.

Investigate: Develop Questions, Search for Information, and Discover Answers
Individuals or small groups select and refine a broad question that they find interesting. You should help students with their question so that it provides an opportunity for them to delve into a topic and consider multiple sources of information. Students can use the web, library resources, and other media to search for information.

Coalesce: Synthesize Information and Build Knowledge
Students should identify a small number of “knowledge claims” that they have learned from their research. These claims should be supported by evidence from multiple media sources.

Go Public: Demonstrate Understanding and Share Learning
Students can share their learning in a variety of ways. For example, they can create newspaper articles, videos, audio podcasts, posters, or infographics.

The resources below provide a variety of perspectives on the Japanese earthquake. Some of the resources may not be suitable for all children.

Talking with Kids about Catastrophes
SFGate: Talking to Kids about the Japanese Earthquake
WFAA: Talking to Children about the Earthquake in Japan
Plate Tectonics
USGS: Earthquakes for Kids
How Stuff Works: Tsunamis
Universe Today: Pacific Ring of Fire
CBS News Online: Pacific Ring of Fire (video)
Yahoo Kids! Plate Tectonics Page
Live Science
BBC Infographic w/ Video
Guardian: Japan’s Earthquake History
The Moscow News
Earthquakes & Tsunamis
Scholastic: Reading the Richter Scale
CBS News: How Earthquakes are Measured
U.S. Department of State: U.S. Geologists Explain Science Behind Japanese Earthquakes
New York Times Interactive: How Shifting Plates Caused the Earthquake and Tsunami in Japan
BBC: Japan’s Earthqauke
Yahoo! News: Japan Earthquake & Tsunami video collection
Scientific American: The Japan Earthquake and Tsunami
Scientific American: How Does an Earthquake Trigger Tsunamis Thousands of Miles Away?
BBC: Japan Earthquake – Footage of Moment Tsunami hit
Australian Broadcast Corporation: Japan Earthquake Before and After (images)
National Geographic: Tsunami Facts in Wake of Japan Earthquake
National Geographic: Tsunami Waves Hit U.S.
CBS: Pacific Northwest at risk for quake like Japan’s
NOAA: Tsunami Page
Earthquake and Tsunami Safety
Public Radio International: Japan’s Earthquake Resistant Buildings
Scientific American: Seconds Before the Big One – Progress in Earthquake Alarms
MSNBC: How Quake Prediction Works (or not)
Japan’s Earthquake Early Warning system
NOAA: How Does a Tsunami Warning System Work?
Nuclear Reactors
How Stuff Works: How Nuclear Power Works
How a Nuclear Reactor Works (animation)
New York Times: Radioactive Releases in Japan Could Last Months
The Guardian’s Nuclear Power page
U.S. Department of Energy: Impact of Radiation on Humans
CNN Dr. Gupta: Radiation Fears in Sendai

The Red Cross
PC Magazine: Japan Earthquake – How to Donate, Reach Out,2817,2381922,00.asp
Education Resources
DLESE: Living in Earthquake Country
New York Times: Teaching Ideas – The Earthquake and Tsunami in Japan
USGS Earthquake Science Explained (10 articles)
AAAS Science NetLinks: Earthquake Teaching Resources
This is cross-posted to Edutopia.

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