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Natural Disaster Risk at Home

Ian MacMillan, Pomona College
This material is replicated on a number of sites as part of the SERC Pedagogic Service Project
Initial Publication Date: August 30, 2006 | Reviewed: October 22, 2012


Students analyze the natural disaster threat and potential mitigation techniques of their (parents') home.

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Learning Goals


  • Apply classroom knowledge to students' non-academic daily life
  • Recognition of how earth processes specifically affect students


  • Communication in writing
  • Observation of local earth features (independent data collection)
  • Independent critical analysis of data

Context for Use

This assignment was developed for a natural hazards class (non-majors); this task is usually assigned just before Thanksgiving break. At this point in the term, most natural hazard processes have been covered, and students should feel comfortable with basic mitigation practices. Because many students return home for the break, this assignment is an opportunity for them to apply what they have learned in a classroom and laboratory setting to something with which they are more familiar (i.e. their home). Students will also get a chance to use the many local resources that are available for disaster preparedness.

Teaching Materials

Download the two page handout (Microsoft Word 29kB Aug22 05) given to students describing this assignment.

Teaching Notes and Tips

For this assignment to work, the course needs to focus on mitigation techniques and how hazards affect humans specifically, in addition to the scientific principles behind natural hazards. A good text for this approach is Natural Disasters by P. Abbott (McGraw Hill).


Students turn in a 1-2 page write-up (see the handout (Microsoft Word 29kB Aug22 05) for this assignment). The instructor evaluates these to:

  • Appraise students' writing style
  • Evaluate completeness of students' analysis (were all major disasters covered?)
  • Analyze students critical thinking skills (were the mitigation techniques appropriate?)

References and Resources

Potential resources (in addition to the textbook and class notes of course):