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Trailers Become Schools After Hurricane Katrina



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Grades 2-up

News Content

Life at Second Street Elementary School in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, has changed a lot in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Anticipation Guide

Before reading this week's News for KIDS article, pose to students this problem: If a disaster -- such as an earthquake, flood, fire, or tornado -- were to come along this weekend and wipe out our school, how quickly might we be back in school? How might our "school" and school life change? Let students share their thoughts.

News Words

Introduce these words from the News Word box on the students' printable page: debris (2), destroyed (2), hurricane (3), Mississippi (4), normal (2), trailer (2), and weaker (2). As you introduce the words ask students to identify the number of syllables in each one. (Answers appear in parentheses.)

Read the News

Click for a printable version of this week's news story Trailers Become Schools After Hurricane Katrina.

Reading the News

You might use a variety of approaches to reading the news:

* Read aloud the news story to students as they follow along.

* Students might first read the news story to themselves; then call on individual students to read the news aloud for the class.

* Arrange students into small groups. Each student in the group will read a paragraph of the story. As that student reads, others might underline important information or write a note in the margin of the story. After each student finishes reading, others in the group might say something -- a comment, a question, a clarification -- about the text.

More Facts to Share

You might share these additional facts with students after they have read "Trailers Become Schools After Hurricane Katrina."

  • In Bay St. Louis, a picturesque coastal town in Mississippi's Hancock County, local officials say it will take years to repair what Katrina destroyed. The historic Old Town area of Bay St. Louis was virtually wiped out by the hurricane. Hancock County administrator Tim Kellar told MSNBC that Katrina instantly erased more than half the county's tax base, cut its population of 46,000 by nearly a quarter -- at least for the short term -- and left county staff with just one 1,200-square-foot office building that was safe for occupancy.
  • Classes for most students in Bay St. Louis resumed last November, just three months after Hurricane Katrina. But life is far from normal. Most of the students spent the winter in trailers or tents set up outside their devastated homes. "All those stories you hear about kids sleeping in tents and cars, all that's true," Ricky Reed, principal of Second Street Elementary School, told PBS earlier this month [April 2006].
  • If there is any silver lining in the kids' new "trailer school" it is the fact that each trailer has a bathroom. In their old two-story school building, there was one crowded bathroom and water fountain on each floor.
  • The FEMA-provided trailers, called modular classrooms, come in two sizes. Each classroom includes whiteboards and bulletin boards as well as carpeting, windows, air conditioning, and heat. The cost of each new temporary classroom is approximately $117,000, which includes the cost of the trailer, delivery, site preparation, utilities, walkways, and parking areas.
  • Another hurricane season, which is just around the corner, has people worried. "Because of the flimsiness of the travel trailers, we will probably evacuate sometimes when we don't really need to," Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour told PBS. "We can't take the risk because the travel trailers are extremely vulnerable."

Comprehension Check

Recalling Detail
After students read the article, "Trailers Become Schools After Hurricane Katrina," ask these questions to check their comprehension:

  • How has the students' bus ride to school changed in recent months? (They see all the devastation, including destroyed buildings and piles of debris, left behind by Hurricane Katrina.)
  • How does the students' "new school" differ from the old one? (They go to school in trailers instead of a two-story building, the computers are gone, classes are smaller)
  • How long ago did Hurricane Katrina hit? (eight months ago)

Think About the News

  • What worries do people of Bay St. Louis have now that they didn't have at this time last year?
  • If you could write a letter to one of the Bay St. Louis students, what would you say to help encourage him or her?

Follow-Up Activities

Math. The modular classrooms that are being used by students in Mississippi range in size from 24-feet x 36-feet to 24-feet x 60-feet. The small classroom units hold up to 30 students, while the larger units are designed to accommodate up to 60. Use this information as the lead-in to some math lessons:

  • Measure the size of your classroom and compare it to the size of the trailers. Is it closer in size to the small trailer or the large trailer?
  • What is the measurement of the perimeter of your classroom? [Figure perimeter by adding the measurements of the four sides of the classroom.] What is the perimeter of a trailer classroom that is 24- x 36-feet? (120 feet) 24- x 60-feet? (168 feet)
  • What is the measurement of the area of your classroom? [Figure area by multiplying length times width.] What is the area of a trailer classroom that is 24- x 36-feet? (864 square feet) 24- x 60-feet? (1,440 square feet)
  • Have students measure out and mark the perimeter of the trailer classrooms. They might use chalk to draw the perimeter on an asphalt surface, or they might use string to mark the area on a grassy field.

Alphabetical Order. For easy identification, hurricanes are given the names of people. Each year's list alternates between male and female names. The names are re-used every six years. (In other words, hurricane names used in 2006 will be used again in 2012 -- except in the case of especially devastating hurricanes; those hurricane names will be replaced.) Write on a board or chart in random order the names that will be assigned to hurricanes in 2006. Have students put the names in alphabetical order. The 2006 hurricane names, in alpha order, are Alberto, Beryl, Chris, Debby, Ernesto, Florence, Gordon, Helene, Isaac, Joyce, Kirk, Leslie, Michael, Nadine, Oscar, Patty, Rafael, Sandy, Tony, Valerie, and William.

Science, Geography & Math. If you teach older students, provide the Hurricane Katrina tracking data below. Let your student-meteorologists track the path of Katrina on Tracking Map 1 or Tracking Map 2.

  • August 23 - 5:00 p.m. - 20 degrees N Latitude, 75 degrees W Longitude
  • August 24 - 5:00 a.m. - 24 degrees N Latitude, 76 degrees W Longitude
  • August 24 - 5:00 p.m. - 26 degrees N Latitude, 77 degrees W Longitude
  • August 25 - 5:00 a.m. - 26 degrees N Latitude, 79 degrees W Longitude
  • August 25 - 5:00 p.m. - 26 degrees N Latitude, 80 degrees W Longitude
  • August 26 - 5:00 a.m. - 25 degrees N Latitude, 82 degrees W Longitude
  • August 26 - 5:00 p.m. - 25 degrees N Latitude, 83 degrees W Longitude
  • August 27 - 5:00 a.m. - 24 degrees N Latitude, 84 degrees W Longitude
  • August 27 - 5:00 p.m. - 25 degrees N Latitude, 86 degrees W Longitude
  • August 28 - 5:00 a.m. - 25 degrees N Latitude, 87 degrees W Longitude
  • August 28 - 5:00 p.m. - 27 degrees N Latitude, 90 degrees W Longitude
  • August 29 - 5:00 a.m. - 29 degrees N Latitude, 90 degrees W Longitude
  • August 29 - 5:00 p.m. - 32 degrees N Latitude, 90 degrees W Longitude
  • August 30 - 5:00 a.m. - 35 degrees N Latitude, 88 degrees W Longitude
When students connect their plot points, the map that results should look something like this Map Plot of Katrina (2005).


Use the Comprehension Check (above) as an assessment. Or have students work on their own (in their journals) or in their small groups to respond to the Think About the News questions on the news story page or in the Comprehension Check section.

Lesson Plan Source

Education World

National Standards

National Standards

NL-ENG.K-12.2 Reading for Understanding
NL-ENG.K-12.12 Applying Language Skills

MATHEMATICS: Measurement
GRADES 3 - 5
NM-MEA.3-5.2 Apply Appropriate Techniques, Tools, and Formulas to Determine Measurements
GRADES 6 - 8
NM-MEA.6-8.2 Apply Appropriate Techniques, Tools, and Formulas to Determine Measurements
GRADES 9 - 12
NM-MEA.9-12.2 Apply Appropriate Techniques, Tools, and Formulas to Determine Measurements

MATHEMATICS: Representation
GRADES Pre-K - 12
NM-REP.PK-12.3 Use Representations to Model and Interpret Physical, Social, and Mathematical Phenomena

NS.K-4.4 Earth and Space Science
GRADES 5 - 8
NS.5-8.4 Earth and Space Science
GRADES 9 - 12
NS.9-12.4 Earth and Space Science

See recent news stories in Education World's News Story of the Week Archive.

Article by Gary Hopkins
Education World®
Copyright © 2006 Education World