Emergency Preparedness (Hurricane Sandy Study) [Day 1/2]

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SWBAT create a poster presentation and “draft memo” which analyzes the effectiveness of and recommends various safety measures for an impending hurricane in NYC (2 days)

Big Idea

In this two day, hands-on, research-based lesson, students get the chance to research some effective strategies to prepare for an impending hurricane in New York City. They'll use the experience of Hurricane Sandy as a "live" case study to create a poster.

Lesson Introduction

This might be my favorite lesson of the year! In this lesson, we use another case study to learn about emergency preparedness. More specifically, I put the students in the position of the administration of NYC, and a storm, similar to Hurricane Sandy, is rapidly approaching landfall. I have students research, debate, and then implement a plan for the city to prepare the infrastructure and citizens for the impending storm. They make a poster presentation, take a gallery walk and examine each others' work, and finally create a policy memo where they brief the mayor on the most critical and important pieces of their plan. [Note: This is a two-day lesson. The second day of the lesson can be found here]

Materials Needed:

  • Poster/Chart Paper
  • Markers (I gave each group 2-3 markers)
  • Tape (enough for hanging posters)
  • Computers w/Internet access

[Note: For embedded comments, checks for understanding (CFUs), and key additional information on transitions and key parts of the lesson not necessarily included in the below narrative, please go to the comments in the following document: 6.12 - Emergency Preparedness (Entire Lesson w/comments). Additionally, if you would like all of the resources together in a PDF document, that can be accessed as a complete resource here: 6.12 - Emergency Preparedness (Entire Lesson)[PDF]. Finally, students may need their Earth Science Reference Tables [ESRT] for parts of the lesson (a document used widely in the New York State Earth Science Regents course) as well.]

Do Now & Objective(s)

10 minutes

Students come in silently and complete the (attached) Do Now. In this case, the Do Now is a review of material and some "hot standards" from Unit 1 (Rocks & Minerals), Unit 4 (Insolation), and the former unit in Meteorology. After time expires (anywhere from 2-4 minutes depending on the type of Do Now and number of questions), we collectively go over the responses (usually involving a series of cold calls and/or volunteers), before I call on a student and ask them to read the objective out loud to start the lesson. 

As a general note, the Do Now serves a few purposes:

  1. It serves as a general review of the previous day's material;
  2. It is a re-activation of student knowledge to get them back into "student mode" and get them thinking about science after transitioning from another content area or alternate class;
  3. as a strategy for reviewing material students have struggled with (for example, using this as a focused review for material that they have struggled with on unit assessments or recent quizzes); and,
  4. It is an efficient and established routine for entering the classroom that is repeated each day with fidelity (I never let students enter the classroom talking. While it may seem potentially severe to have students enter silently each day, this is both a school wide expectation and a key component of my classroom. In many respects, I find that students readily enjoy the focus that starting with a quiet classrooms brings each day).

Introduction & Task

13 minutes

The Introduction & Task is fairly straightforward. As a theatrical note, I generally approach this part of the lesson with a great deal of severity and somberness (which students love). We use a combination of cold-calling, my favorite reading strategy, Control The Game (which you can see a video of me demonstrating here, but briefly involves me using popsicle sticks with student names on them to "cold call" students to read out loud), and the teacher reading. I encourage students to annotate and/or underline any important or pertinent information that they feel they'll need. 

The first piece of information here is the fact that the impending landfall of this hurricane is a Category 3 storm, which is frankly much more powerful than what Hurricane Sandy was when it hit the east coast of NY/NJ. Using the provided Saffir-Simpson scale, students should see that this is a storm with potential for great destruction, and their first priority should be the safety of all of the citizens of the NYC, as well as the surrounding metropolitan areas. 

As we read together, students begin to see that the plan that they need to set in place is more or less completely up to them. There aren't any super-explicit guidelines or requirements, but they need to construct frameworks for dealing with the storm from an operational, human resources, economic, and social construct perspective. They also need to be able to rank and prioritize their priorities - what deserves the government's primary attention? These are questions that they're grappling with as they explore the task, which comes at the second page of the Introduction & Task resource - their task is to create a poster presentation on what to do and how to do it for before, during, and after the storm. They're also responsible for self-organizing in a way that all group members have an appropriate role to play (as in, no one is "left out" of the group and no one is taking on too much of the workload themselves). 

Finally, students are introduced to how they'll be graded - on their overall performance and participation as a lab group and team. They're given a minute to analyze the rubric on the last page of the Introduction & Task to see how they'll be scored over the two day role play. 

Research & Poster Creation Time

30 minutes

After the Introduction phase, I give students manila folders with printed out information from a few websites (see below) in addition to a laptop computer for research. As noted in the above section, beyond reminders for time, how they self-organize is up to them. I found some groups really wanted to organize the physical space of the poster first, while others wanted to collect as much information as possible before trying to sort through it or categorize anything. But the bulk of the remaining class period should be mostly allotted for students to work together in creating their posters. I provided some markers (3-4 colors per group), some poster paper, and the above mentioned resources. Below, there's a list of some websites with key safety information that I printed out, stapled together, and put in the folders for their use:

While this is happening, I am making sure that I circulate from group to group to ensure fidelity to the process of their poster. In my initial rounds, for instance, I found many groups were concerned mostly about buildings or infrastructure. In considering the triage of needs from a leadership standpoint, I had to refocus their priority on safety and saving lives. Personal property and affects take a secondary position to the protection of everyone, and it was an idea that resonated with all the groups once they realized it!

Beyond the websites, printed information, and laptop access, I also encourage them, while circulating, to use their provided Notes Pages to begin sorting through the wide swath of information they have available to them. As a general reference, there are some student work samples here and here

Cleanup & Closing

7 minutes

I generally allot more time here due to the fact that there are so many materials, and the room itself (I move my desks into lab groups, so any lab or group work means that the desks have to be rearranged before the end of class). I make sure to collect all the posters (make sure students have put their names on them!), markers, laptops (we have a mobile laptop cart in the room, so I usually have a student collect and plug in the laptops for the next class), and manilla folders. I then give students a minute or so to organize themselves and make sure the desks go back into the appropriate spaces. Again, if you think you'll need it, or your kiddos tend to be on the messier side, it's always a better option to allot more time here than too little, especially if you have another class coming in immediately after (I also share a room, and sometimes there are alternate classes using the space).

As I've noted in previous lessons, a good trick here is to have a hard stop - no matter what or how well kids are working, when the clock hits a certain time, everyone stops and begins to clean up. This works especially well if you have a lot of materials out, or, if you have younger students (or even early HS students) you make it a competition as to who can clean up the quickest or fastest. 

As a final reminder, this is a two-day lesson (the second day can be found here), so it's okay if students aren't 100% completed with their posters just yet!