Hurricane Watch: Lessons and Activities
To your students, this time of year probably means new friends, new books, and new and exciting adventures. But to meteorologists, the late summer signifies an adventure of another kind. It's the peak time of the Atlantic hurricane season. This week, Education World presents activities designed to help your students understand this powerful force of nature.
Most residents of the United States will never experience a hurricane firsthand. But all will hear, at some time in their lives, news reports about the destruction caused by one of these violent storms. Just what are hurricanes? How do they form? Who do they affect? What damage do they cause? The information and activities below will help you answer those questions, as well as provide some exciting additions to your curriculum.
Hurricane is, in fact, just one name for the kind of storm scientists refer to as a strong tropical cyclone. When the same kind of storm occurs in the western North Pacific Ocean, it's called a typhoon. In the southwest Pacific Ocean and the Indian Ocean, the storms are referred to as cyclones. (Students can learn more at How They Are Named Differently in Different Parts of the World.)
Tropical cyclones develop when thunderstorms form over ocean water that has reached a temperature of about 80 degrees Fahrenheit. The conditions required for tropical cyclones, or Hurricanes, to develop occur most often in late summer and early fall. An average of nine named tropical storms develop each year in the Atlantic basin, six of which become hurricanes. Of those, two are likely to become intense hurricanes and cause extensive damage.
The following activities will help your students understand hurricanes and appreciate their power and consequences. The activities are grouped under two headings, Hurricane Activities for All Students and Hurricane Activities for Upper Elementary Students and Above.
Language arts -- alphabetical order. Provide students with a scrambled list of World-Wide Tropical Cyclone Names from this year's hurricane season and have them put the names in alphabetical order. Which letters do not have an associated hurricane name? You might want to explain that tropical storm names are assigned by the World Meteorological Organization.
More language arts -- alphabetical order. Ask students to work in small groups to create their own alphabetical list of names they'd attach to hurricanes -- if they were responsible for naming them!
Science -- make a weather station. Encourage younger students to visit Making a Weather Station and help them follow the directions to create a classroom weather station.
Geography -- track a hurricane. Provide students with a Tracking Map and invite them to track the path of a current storm or a storm from a previous year.
Math -- solve word problems. Encourage students to visit Disaster Math and solve the problems. For very young students, use these word problems as a guide to creating your own.
Hands-on science -- making lightning. Lightning is caused by static electricity stored in rain clouds. When the clouds have too much stored static electricity, a spark results --- lightning! Students can demo how lightning is formed by tearing a small square of paper into tiny, confetti-like pieces. Mext, take a comb and hold it near the confetti. Nothing happens. Then they can briskly run the comb through their hair. Hold the "charged" comb over the confetti. What happens? You can't see the static electricity you've created but you can see its results. In what other ways can you create static electricity?
Math -- make a graph. Hurricanes cause millions of dollars in damage each year. Invite students to create a bar or picture graph to show the costs of hurricane damage over a span of years. Use this data table to research the top 20 costliest between 1900 and 2006.
Home connection -- health and safety. Print copies of the Disaster Supply Kit and send a copy home with each student. Have students include a letter explaining specific concerns they have regarding storms and encourage them to discuss both their concerns and the checklists with their families.
Hands-on science -- demonstrate the water cycle. Use this experiment to demonstrate the water cycle. (The sun changes water to water vapor, which rises, cools, and condenses to form clouds. Then cool air meets the clouds, creating rain, sleet, or snow.) Have students fill jars half-full of water. Cover the jar openings with plastic wrap and use rubber bands to seal. Place the jars on a sunny windowsill. Ask: What happened? Why? What signs did you see of condensation? evaporation? How does this experiment demonstrate the water cycle?
Art/Language arts -- create a class joke book. Invite each student to create a humorous picture to illustrate this joke: Why won't weather forecasters tell each other jokes?
They don't want to laugh up a storm! Choose the best illustration of this joke to be the cover of a class joke book. Then invite each student to choose a favorite riddle or joke to illustrate and to add to the class joke book.
Games -- challenge a computer. Invite students to explore probability as they play the Water, Wind, and Earth game against the computer.
Science -- create a chart. Encourage students to go to Davis Weather Instruments' Virtual Weather Station and explore the company's VantagePro product. Help students create a chart of the data provided for several different weather situations. Then ask them to hypothesize about the correlation between wind-chill temperature and wind speed, humidity level and rainfall amounts, and so on. Have students record weather information given for their area for a week or two and then test their hypotheses.
Social studies -- write a press release. Encourage older students to take the role of a city mayor and write a press release that offers instructions and safety tips to residents as a hurricane approaches.
Writing -- create a newspaper. Arrange students into groups and provide each group with a list of Retiring Names of the Worst Hurricanes. Ask each group to choose from the list a hurricane that affected the United States, research the hurricane, and then create a newspaper about it. Encourage students to name their newspapers appropriately based on the hurricane's path, to accurately represent costs according to the actual year in which the hurricane occurred, and to include graphics, advertisements, and cartoons that reflect the concerns of area residents.
Art -- create a diorama. Arrange students into five groups and assign each group a hurricane category, from 1 to 5. Then have students create a hurricane of the assigned category. You might want to explain that a Category 2 hurricane has 10 times the destructive power of a Category 1 hurricane, a Category 3 hurricane has 50 times the destructive power of a Category 1 hurricane, a Category 4 has 100 times the power, and a Category 5 has 250 times the destructive power. Then ask each group to create a diorama showing the damage to a building that might result from their hurricane.
Geography -- learning latitude and longitude. Introduce the Stormpulse or Hurricane Tracker (MSNBC). Then have students explore another Interactive Tracking Map and click Quick Plot to practice plotting their own coordinates. Then provide students with a map of the United States or the world, give them several sets of coordinates, and ask them to find the locations on the map.
Science -- take a quiz. Encourage students to take an interactive quiz to learn what they know -- and don't know. They can use one or more of the following online resources:
Math -- calculate inflation. Ask students to access an information table on the Top 20 Costliest Hurricanes betweem 1900 and 2006. Then have students calculate the rate of inflation between various years represented in the table.
Stormfax Weather Services
Provides an extensive array of weather information for the United States and the world, including a daily weather map and satellite images.
The National Hurricane Center
Everything you ever wanted to know about hurricanes, typhoons, and tropical cyclones.
The National Weather Service Interactive Weather Information Network
Provides weather and tracking information for many different kinds of storms, including hurricanes.
The USA Today Hurricane Index
A good source for clearly written hurricane information and news.
South Florida Sun Sentinel Hurricane Information
Includes a timeline of fascinating hurricane history, a quiz, an interactive map, and more.
Hurricanes from the University of Illinois
This site provides lots of hurricane information accompanied by clear explanations and many definitions.
Severe Weather -- Hurricanes
Provides an activity your students can use to track and analyze a hurricane.
FEMA For Kids
Provides storm drawings, games, hurricane forecasts, and hurricane videos.
Hurricanes: How They Work and What They Do
A variety of basic information about hurricanes.
Hurricane: Storm Science from the Miami Museum of Science
A great deal of information for younger students, including directions for making weather instruments, a healing quilt for storm survivors, letters from storm survivors, and statements from a family that lived through Hurricane Andrew.
Article by Linda Starr
Copyright © 2010 Education World
Last updated 08/24/2011