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

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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

[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.]

This is a continuation of a two-day lesson on emergency preparedness and the "case" of a Hurricane Sandy-esque hurricane impending to strike the eastern seaboard. The students have spent the first day researching and preparing the what to do notes as administrators for New York City, and today's culminating part of the lesson involves some brief time to finalize and perfect their posters, a brief gallery walk, and some time to start drafting their summative policy memo which will summarize and prioritize their emergency initiatives for the incoming storm [Note: Day 1 of this two day lesson can be accessed here]

Materials Needed:

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


Poster Creation (Work Time: Part II) & Hang Up

25 minutes

This section is a continuation of the time they needed from Day 1. During this time, I quickly have students transition into their laboratory groups, pass out the necessary materials (I usually assign a student to pass out their posters, which I have put away on a shelf in my room - I made sure that at the end of the previous day, all students wrote down their names on the appropriate posters so that they can be passed out easily during this time) including the laptops, manila folders, and markers (they can and should use the same Notes Pages from yesterday). I usually give students about 20-25 minutes to finalize and beautify their posters, making sure they have the most critical information for before, during, and after the storm happens. As I said to them yesterday, they have all the normal resources of the city's economic and institutional power at their disposal, so some of their ideas are beginning to really take shape during this time. As is true from yesterday, I'm circulating to make sure that all groups have assigned tasks appropriately and to serve as a thought partner for some of those ideas (i.e. "What about getting food to the shelters?" or "If we keep the subways running, how are the employees getting home before the storm hits?"). When there's about five minutes left, I ensure that each group gets a few pieces of tape (we use Frog tape, as it "sticky" but doesn't leave a residue on any walls or windows) and has a designated space (and person) nearby to hang up their poster. When time runs out, I summon the class in giving directions for the gallery walk portion of the lesson, which continues below.

Gallery Walk

15 minutes

[Note: I have a couple of student work examples and pictures from the gallery walk listed in this section:] 

  1. Gallery Walk
  2. Gallery Walk II
  3. Gallery Walk III
  4. Gallery Walk IV
  5. Gallery Walk V
  6. Gallery Walk VI

I'd like to refer to the directions that I give in this section as "structurally unstructured." Once I have all students' posters taped up, I give them a minute to re-arrange the desks back into their normal classroom arrangement (I am not in a traditional laboratory classroom, so I have my students move their desks back and forth into groups and traditional rows). Once that has been completed (it always helps to have a timer to speed this process up!), I give my directions for the gallery walk. As the posters have already been hung up, I indicate that the general voice level of the room should be "studious" - which I define as the occasional "excuse me" or "that's interesting" comment being okay, but there should not be a heavy din of conversation, nor does anyone have to stay absolutely silent. I feel that this medium is enforceable and observable from students, as it's easy to monitor for any students who get above this level, or stop the class if everyone is exceeding an appropriate volume or getting too loud. Similarly, I place no restrictions on where to go in the classroom - they are free to move as they choose, but I do think it's important that they are working during this time. So in the video below, which is a brief clip of some of my students going through the gallery walk, I think you can see them on task and taking down appropriate information in their notes. As far as what that information is and how I frame it, I simply tell them that the various emergency response teams have gotten together and shared their best ideas on the posters they see in the rooms. Their job is to assemble the best information, whether it's on their poster or not, write it down, and begin to categorize it into the most pertinent things to do before, during, and after for the city to come out unscathed. 


I keep a timer on the document camera so that students know approximately how much time they have left. Again, the self-management is left up to them during this time. 

Policy Memo

15 minutes

Once students have completed the appropriate steps of the gallery walk and time has expired, I direct them to their last, and summative task, for the two days - a Policy Memo that they will construct, as acting emergency commissioner, to the mayor of the city of New York. The directions are pretty clear, so all I do, once they return to their seats, is ensure that they're utilizing their notes appropriately and constructing their actual policy memos. [Note: Please refer to the Reflection in this section for additional context here]. Similar to above, there is a brief video of some of my students working on this memo toward the end of the class period. 

Clean Up & Closing

5 minutes

Since they have already cleaned up from their poster creation, and the room is back in order, there is very little actual clean up that needs to be done. During this time, I generally, as long as the room is in order, allot most of the time for them to continue to draft their policy memos (which they will hand in the next day...and complete for homework if they run out of class time). As a general note that many of my other classes found helpful - I left the posters up from each subsequent class. What I mean by this is that all the posters from my first period class were already up, and when my third period class came in, they also left their posters up and were additionally able to use the ideas summoned by the different groups during first period. In essence, all earlier periods were able to contribute to the body of knowledge of all subsequent periods - something they definitely appreciated (but made my room a little messy toward the end of the day!). When there's about a minute or left, I give them warning as to the impending bell, remind them that any unfinished work is to be completed and submitted the next day, and have them transition out when the bell rings for the end of the period.