Brief Description: Students will use sturdy structures concepts to design buildings and test them to see if they can survive a natural disaster.

Grades: 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8

Time: 1 hour (per disaster)

Keywords: natural disasters, hurricane, tornado, earthquake, sturdy structures, civil engineering


Lesson Objectives

  • Students  will learn about how to build houses/buildings to best manage for a natural disaster
  • Students will begin to understand how height, width, and overall city design (loose items) affect its reaction to natural disasters.

Materials

  • To build houses/buildings:
    • Tape
    • Hot glue
    • Paper
    • Saran wrap
    • Tin foil
    • Popsicle sticks
    • Cardboard
    • Cups
    • Straws
    • Legos
    • Other found materials
  • For the Hurricane:
    • Fan
  • For the Earthquake:
    • Earthquake box (there should be a pre-made one in the CEEO):
      • If there is not, click here for instructions on how to build one
  • For the Volcano:
    • Empty soda bottles
    • Vinegar
    • Baking soda
    • Construction paper
    • News paper
  • For the Flood:
    • sand
    • water + small container to pour it out of
    • large boxes
    • hammer

Procedure

 

  • Hurricane

 

      1. Discuss hurricanes. A hurricane is a storm with a violent wind.These winds are strong enough to knock over trees and tear houses apart. To protect homes from hurricanes it is a good idea to secure loose rain gutters and downspouts and clear any clogged areas or debris to prevent water damage to your property. It is also a good idea to secure and reinforce the roof, windows and doors, including the garage doors.
      2. Have students build houses/buildings/towns out of the provided materials.
      3. Challenge them to build structures that will withstand high winds.
      4. Add in extra challenges of mini-figures, trees, telephone poles, etc. This challenge will test to see if their houses can withstand something falling on them as a result of the wind.
      5. When students are ready to test, have them place their towns in front of the fan and talk about what happens to the town as the fan blows on it
      6. Go through all fan speeds
      7. Discuss what worked. What did not work? What other materials would have been useful?

 

  • Earthquake

 

      1. Discuss earthquakes. An earthquake is a sudden and violent shaking of the ground, sometimes causing great destruction, as a result of movements within the earth’s crust or volcanic action.
        1. Earthquakes are caused by the shifting of tectonic plates. Because of the location of tectonic plates, there are certain areas that are more susceptible to earthquakes.  
        2. The magnitude of an earthquake is measured using the Richter scale, a 1-10 scale that measures the strength of vibrations.
        3. Engineers design buildings that resist the lateral movement of an earthquake, thus making it “earthquake proof”.
          1. One way to to make a building more earthquake resistant is to tie the walls, floor, roof, and foundations into a rigid box that holds together when shaken. The least earthquake-proof construction is unreinforced brick or concrete block.  This type of construction has walls that are made of bricks stacked on top of each other and held together with mortar with a roof is laid across the top.  This design allows the weight of the roof to be carried straight down through the wall and into the foundation. When the lateral force of an earthquake reached this building, the walls crumble and fall, and the roof caves in.  (Watch this video to illustrate this point, URL also posted in “Resources”)
          2. Houses in earthquake-prone areas also tend not to have basements.
      2. Have students build houses/buildings/towns out of the provided materials. If students already built their house/building, have them modify their building to withstand an earthquake.
      3. When students are ready to test, have them place their towns on top of the platform and shake the box at different levels of intensity (simulating different earthquake magnitudes on the Richter scale)
      4. Allow students to redesign their and fix any buildings that may have toppled/fallen apart
      5. Conclude as a class. What worked? What did not work?

 

  • Volcano

 

      1. A volcano is a rupture in Earth’s crust that allows hot lava, volcanic ash, and gases to escape from a magma chamber below the surface.
        1. How do volcanic eruptions occur? magma from Earth’s upper mantle rises to surface, pressure builds and eruptions occur, magma becomes lava when flows out of volcano
        2. An underwater volcanic eruption can cause a tsunamis
        3. There are three types of volcanoes: active, dormant, extinct
      2. Have students build houses/buildings/towns out of the provided materials. If students already built their house/building, have them modify their building to withstand a volcanic eruption.
      3. Each pair of students then gets to build their own volcano using a plastic bottle. They can decorate using construction paper. Fill the bottle with vinegar. Add a few drops of red or orange food coloring (optional).
      4. Finally, go outside (it’s messy and this will save time for cleanup!) and have the students place their houses/buildings around the volcanoes. Put baking soda in all of the bottles. Observe how the “lava” spreads and see how the buildings closest to the volcanoes are affected the most.
      5. Is there a way to protect a house from lava other than being out of its proximity?
        1. If houses were made of paper or cardboard, getting wet will likely destroy them. If you plan to reuse buildings throughout a natural disaster unit, make sure this is the last one you do.  

 

  • Flood

 

    1. Discuss floods and liquefaction.
      1. A flood is an overflow of water that submerges land which is usually dry.
      2. Liquefaction is a phenomenon in which the strength and stiffness of a soil is reduced by earthquake shaking or other rapid loading.
    2. Have students build houses/buildings/towns out of the provided materials. If students already built their house/building, have them modify their building to withstand a flood.
    3. Pour the sand/gravel into a large box. Then, pour enough water into the box that the sand is saturated, but there is no pooling on top.
    4. Instruct students to modify their buildings so that they do not tip over or sink in the sand
    5. When the students are ready to test, place their buildings in the center of the box and tap the edge of the box with the hammer to simulate liquefaction

Extensions and Modifications

  • Hurricane + Rain: To make the hurricane more realistic, you can add water (using a watering pot to simulate rain). In this modification, students must water-proof their homes in addition to making them wind-proof. Students should make sure that their houses are airtight and the materials do not get soggy when wet.

 

Resources

 

Tufts Student Teacher Outreach Mentorship Program • 200 Boston Ave. • Suite G810 • Medford, MA • 617-627-5888

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