Teaching resources for the Japanese earthquake and tsunami

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
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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14 Responses to Teaching resources for the Japanese earthquake and tsunami

  1. Keiron Smith says:

    The Layered Earth integrates your Earth Science curriculum with the latest technology to prepare your students for the skills they’ll need in the 21st Century. In a dynamic environment, through step-by-step computer explorations, activities and resources, you”ll guide your students through a geological journey that will rock their world.
    The forces behind the recent earthquakes in Japan and New Zealand can be explored, and important scientific concepts easily demonstrated and explained, all while plotting real USGS data in 3D across a model of the earth, using The Layered Earth.
    Demonstration videos are available here:
    New Zealand:

  2. Tiffany says:

    This is very informative. I learned a lot from this blog. Thank you for sharing.

  3. Pedro Braganca says:

    Some more Japan resources here including slides, interactives and videos:

  4. Mike says:

    I am teaching in Seattle and so one of best ways I can think of is to relate the Earthquakes in Japan and New Zealand to the Earthquakes we have had here in the past by talking about the Ring of Fire. I teach 7th & 8th graders Earth Science and I think they’re just old enough that it’s appropriate. Any younger and the lesson might be a little too close to home and would scare them.
    Here is a link to a Ring of Fire article that mentions the West Coast and Seattle:
    -> http://www.scientificamerican.com/blog/post.cfm?id=life-on-the-ring-of-fire-earthquake-2009-01-30
    And here’s a link to the local television channel talking about volcanos and the Ring of Fire on the anniversary of Mt. St. Helans:
    -> http://www.king5.com/news/saint-helens/Northwest-volcanoes-explained-94121559.html

  5. Tracy says:

    I think it is very important as educators to keep our students in the loop when it comes to current events. As any student or individual can see, the tsunami and earthquake are being talked about on various television channels, in the newspapers and all over the internet. I agree that it would be beneficial to incorporate this major event into our classrooms, since it is taking place in our world where we live. With the links provided, I think it would be best to start off with what exactly an earthquake and tsunami are, to make sure every student has an understanding of what exactly took place. Then I would go into detail about where exactly it happened, and what is still happening. I also think that this event could be integrated into almost any subject in the classroom including math, science, vocabulary, reading, etc.
    As this blog states, I believe the most beneficial activity to students would be to let them find information on their own and create some type of newspaper article, video or class project using the information that they found. It is the inquiry activities that seem to most appeal to students. With prior filtering of certain websites, students should be able to locate information almost anywhere on the internet. If I was able to bring these activities into my classroom, I definitely would. I feel it is a very significant occurrence that needs to be discussed among our students.

  6. Dustin says:

    I actually started teaching my lessons on earthquakes the same day that the earthquake occured in Japan. There are alot of great resourses listed in this blog and I wish I would have discovered this blog earlier. I will still try to incorporate a few of these resources in my lessons this week.

  7. Janelle says:

    I think some of the ideas within this blog are very important to not only share as an educator with our students, but with parents and communities as well. As we all know, natural disasters can be very scary for children (or everyone for that matter), especially if there is potential for the disaster to occur close to home. Within the school district in which I teach, we are often reminded to be cautious of what is discussed about current events in our classroom.
    Following the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, I had many students wanting to discuss it in class. As their teacher, I feel I should educate my students and expand their knowledge within a topic, especially when I am being asked. With this being said, I realize I must educate them, but of course at the appropriate level.
    This blog has many informational links regarding the horrific disaster, but one that stuck out to me, and one I thought was useful, would be that which discusses best practice when speaking with younger children. It reminds us that it is appropriate to discuss an event such as this with children, but keep it as simple and accurate as possible. By doing this and minimizing the amount of media exposure we will help to reduce potential fear that may arise.

  8. Alisa says:

    I feel that when it comes to teaching natural disasters, students tend to become fearful or over curious. I did a lesson on tornadoes in my fourth grade class one year, and every time the wind blew, they would tell me about it. I also found that some students become overly sensitive to matters of destructive natural occurrences.
    This blog holds excellent resources to educate our youth to help them understand and prepare for natural disasters. It is always a delicate topic because we don’t want our students going home and having nightmares, but we also have to be truthful and factual because some of these things may really hit home. I agree with the above commenter that along with students, parents and communities should be informed as well.
    Teaching about the tsunami in Japan can bring many lessons together. Weather, safety, communities coming together, and so much more. Thank you for posting this blog. I am sure it will be referenced to for many educators and myself.

  9. Kim C. says:

    The images on television can be frightening and upsetting to younger children. Yet, children need to learn about and keep up with current events. I agree that children should have limited television expose after a disaster. A way to help children understand about catastrophes is to talk to them. Reassure them that grown-ups are aware that these things can happen and know the steps to take to try to keep everyone as safe as possible. In order to explain this, try to help children make sense of what has happened by understanding the world. In the article, “Teaching resources for Japanese Earthquakes and Tsunami,” Daniels and Harvey show how to use inquiry in the classroom. This is something I can use when teaching younger children about this subject. I will have to adapt it their their level. These are very good ideas. Thank you.

  10. Adeshewa says:

    these resorucs are great! Many times when teaching students are inspired by events in the news and things that are occuring in the global community. Having a list of resources that teachers can use inorder to help students understand current events and tie it in to what they are learning in class is a great way to motivate students and introduce a new topic

  11. Mahnoor Aasim says:

    woah! i lv this blog! may god bless such a hard working country!

  12. Mahnoor Aasim says:

    we r with u, Japan!
    PS: thanks for the awsome speech n art competition!

  13. Sha'Neice C. Davis says:

    Man I just cannot belive what happen.I just hope that god just want take us out the world .Thats why i just say my prayers all the time

  14. I do not typically remark but I gotta state respect for that post about this one.

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