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Hazards Teaching Activities  

This post was edited by Kit Pavlekovsky on Aug, 2012
What strategies or techniques do you use in your own teaching about geologic hazards? Please describe at least one example of a class activity you've used (e.g. Google Earth, writing assignment, role-playing, debates, service learning, visualizations or simulations…And as long as you're sharing, please consider submitting this activity in our teaching collections: serc.carleton.edu/NAGTWorkshops/intro/contrib_act.html.


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I use a variety of "active learning" activities in my Environmental Geology class. (see the Interactive Lecture Module at: http://serc.carleton.edu/sp/library/interactive/index.html).

I start most classes with an overview of the day's news either in print from, from NPR, other websources. There is something to talk about every day that can be placed into the context of topics that will be covered that day in class. We use a lot of think-pair-share activities to discuss case studies that are presented. Quite often I use an Earth Picture of the Day about some hazard, and can usually get a nervous laugh when I ask "What's wrong with this picture?" of a house that is perched on a hilltop ready to fall down. In the lab section (which is actually more of a recitation session), I do a lot of jigsaw, role playing and class debates. In all of these cases, I send student onto the Web to seek information about Topic X, and then to interact with other student groups to learn more about the underlying Science. Most recently, we did a whole-class service learning project in which we prepared a public forum on Seismic Hazards in SW Montana. Eight student groups each prepared a 10 minute powerpoint slideshow of different aspects of understanding seismic risks: principles of seismology, regional geology, historical earthquakes in our area, emergency response services, how to protect yourself, building codes, public health issues....

These are just a few of the instructional activities I've used over many years in my Environmental Geology course.


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In Teachers on the Leading Edge (TOTLE), we have collected sets of classroom activities from many sources (IRIS, Larry Braile, John Lahr, Tremor Troops, Seismic Sleuths, etc) and developed these into a sequence of lesson plans and associated earthquake education resources. In addition, we developed a set of new classroom activities specifically for Cascadia featuring the 1700 AD great Cascadia subduction zone earthquake and the Orphan Tsunami. The goal is to provide middle- and high-school teachers of Earth Science with lesson plans, animations, short video lectures, etc that they can immediately use in their classroom teaching about plate tectonics, earthquakes, tsunamis, and volcanoes. Examples would be Build-a-Better Wall, BOSS Model, Cascadia GPS Locked and Loading (that includes Plate Boundary Observatory GPS data analysis). TOTLE works in collaboration with USGS, IRIS Education and Public Outreach, and UNAVCO as well as the Oregon and Washington geological surveys to develop these educational products. Learning science through inquiry is a fundamental principle and much effort is involved to align activities with national and state science education standards.


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One activity I've found useful has been contrasting the hazards present in a hot vs. a cold (young vs. old) subduction zone. I use maps of the age of the subducting oceanic crust, earthquake depths, earthquake magnitudes and volcanism to get students engaged in a discussion of which setting has a higher hazard risk--hot or cold? I then usually pull out a map of population densities and GDP/capita and discuss how these patterns fit with the relative hazard risk. It's an interesting discussion; the next step that I'm working on is making it more quantitative.


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