Reducing impacts of natural disasters make great STEM challenges! Use these activities to reinforce the engineering design process (NGSS 3-5-ETS 1-1, 3-5-ETS1-2, 3-5-ETS1-3). Simultaneously, teach about fast changes to Earth’s surface (NGSS 4-ESS3-2).
Ms. Sneed Teaches How to Reduce Impacts of Natural Disasters
“Next up,” she said Mr. Frank, “reducing impacts of natural disasters.”
Using the Engineering Design Process to Reduce Impacts
Ms. Sneed scrolled through the reducing impacts resource. “I love the way this unit does double duty. Simultaneously, kids learn about the engineering design process as they study fast changes to Earth’s surface.”
Learning About Criteria and Constraints
The teachers studied the first activity. “Check this out,” Mr. Frank said. “Kids read this scenario about a farmer’s field and define the problem. First, they write a sentence or two that tells what the farmer needs. Second, they list criteria. Third, they define constraints, or limitations for solutions.”
“Great,” said Ms. Sneed. “Just what our kids need. And look at this: kids study some quotes and identify them as criteria or constraints. These really build kids skills for standardized tests.”
Brainstorming Ways to Reduce Impacts
“In the next activity,” Mr. Frank continued, “kids learn how to brainstorm. I love the way this scaffolds.”
Ms. Sneed nodded. “First, they learn how to define a problem. Second, they learn to brainstorm. All the while, they’re considering how to reduce the impact of fast processes to Earth’s surface.”
Using a Fair Test
The pair scrolled to the next activity. “Here they learn about the fair test,” said Ms. Sneed. “Rarely do I find activities for this part of the engineering design process.”
Ms. Sneed pointed to a lab sheet. “In this scenario, a road is crumbling due to erosion. The lab sheet has been completed as an example. Great modeling. Kids use it to answer questions about the fair test. Once again, scaffolding…”
Two STEM Activities to Reduce Impacts of Natural Disasters
“And then,” she scrolled down a bit more, “they’re ready to do it themselves. “On the fourth day of the unit, kids design a prototype for a tsunami-proof home. Then, on the fifth day, they work on an earthquake-proof skyscraper.”
“Fortunately, we can find most of these earth science materials at the dollar store,” Mr. Frank added.
Slowly, that famous smile spread across Ms. Sneed’s face. “This,” she said, “is the kind of stuff that makes me love teaching.”
For more than 30 years, I enjoyed teaching upper elementary students – mostly fourth grade. Now I tell my tales through a fictitious educator, Ms. Sneed. Like you, she grapples with day-to-day classroom challenges. And like you, she meets those challenges head-on. Hopefully, each of her stories will give you some ideas and inspiration.