Hurricanes and the Incredible Mystery of Disappearing Land: Book Chapter

Dr. David Steele and colleagues from the University of Portland, Rider University, Fort Hayes State University, and the Ohio State University collaborated to create an elementary science unit on hurricanes. This unit is designed to help 5th grade students develop a deep understanding of hurricanes and their impacts. Utilizing the lesson plans in this unit, students are guided through several activities that will eventually allow them to develop answers to the unit’s two guiding questions: “What could a hurricane do to [place] and the local surrounding area? and How can we prepare [place] and the local surrounding area for a severe hurricane and survive?” Students begin the unit by being exposed to an anchoring phenomenon: land loss around the Louisiana coastline after Hurricane Katrina. Using phenomena to anchor lessons situates science instruction in the context of community and brings to the forefront the overlapping nature of science, technology, engineering, and math, as well as the integration of other disciplines. From there, the unit allows students to explore the following science big ideas: weather-related conditions associated with hurricanes and how those weather conditions are measured, why and where hurricanes form and what ocean conditions promote their formation, using models to forecast hurricane strength and paths – including exploring the impacts of hurricanes using primary sources, developing a “Family Emergency Plan” in the event of a hurricane or other natural disaster, researching hurricane proof building designs, and using research findings to design the perfect hurricane proof house. Included in the unit is a summative assessment that requires students to circle back to the anchoring phenomenon and apply their learning and house design ideas to thinking about structures that could be designed to protect environments from hurricane damage.

The unit can be found in the Information Age Publishing volume: “Teaching and Learning Online: Science for Elementary Grade Levels”.