Science of natural disasters, for young children

Fungus growing on a fence post

With ten-plus inches of rain, even fenceposts sprout with fungus.

An earthquake (my first ever experienced), the edge of hurricane Irene’s winds, and unending rain (over 10 inches in the last  two weeks) brought flooding, downed trees, and rampant fungus growth—is this an auspicious beginning to fall? One nearby county has already had an “excessive precipitation” day (not due to snow, the roads were flooded). The teachers I work with here in the Washington, D.C. area, like teachers everywhere, are nothing if not resourceful—when a failed sump pump allowed rainwater to seep into the classroom, a preschool teacher took her students to their designated shelter-in-place location, the church building next door. While doing the back-to-school review of emergency plans (what to do in case of tornado, shelter-in-place scenario, and fire) another school realized they now have to add “earthquake plan” to the list.

Never fear, Science and Children is here, with a Teaching Through Tradebooks column on “Earthquake!” a lesson plan pairing a book to read aloud with a science activity. And the NSTA Recommends service, which reviews trade books, came up with over 30 titles when I searched for “disaster.” Jump into Science: Earthquakes by Ellen J. Prager with illustrations by Susan Greenstein (2007, National Geographic Children’s Books) and Earthquakes by Seymour Simon (2006, HarperCollins) are not not on the list but they are written for young children. (Not every good book can be reviewed for NSTA Recommends.) Can you recommend a book about earthquakes for children ages 4-8? Will children be unnecessarily frightened by books with illustrations showing major earthquake damage? In a National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) brochure on helping children cope with natural disasters or violent experiences, Jane M. Farish offers the advice that “More than any other action, avoiding media coverage will protect children from confusing and disturbing images.”

The Martin Luther King Jr. memorial

Diversity in people can be seen in the visitors at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial.

Today was beautifully sunny, a chance to appreciate the freedom to walk across Memorial Bridge to contemplate the Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial, and wave to the President and First Lady in their motorcade as we walked back to the Metro. How are you doing this week?


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