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
- 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
Earthquakes & Tsunamis
- New York Times Interactive: How Shifting Plates Caused the Earthquake and Tsunami in Japan
- 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.
- 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
- Japan's Earthquake Early Warning system
- NOAA: How Does a Tsunami Warning System Work?
- 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
This post also appears as an NSTABlog.