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Natural Disaster Risk at Home

Ian MacMillan, Pomona College

This activity was selected for the On the Cutting Edge Reviewed Teaching Collection

This activity has received positive reviews in a peer review process involving five review categories. The five categories included in the process are

  • Scientific Accuracy
  • Alignment of Learning Goals, Activities, and Assessments
  • Pedagogic Effectiveness
  • Robustness (usability and dependability of all components)
  • Completeness of the ActivitySheet web page

For more information about the peer review process itself, please see http://serc.carleton.edu/NAGTWorkshops/review.html.

This page first made public: Aug 30, 2006

This material is replicated on a number of sites as part of the SERC Pedagogic Service Project


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

Learning Goals



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:

References and Resources

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




Geoscience:Geology:Tectonics, Geoscience:Hydrology:Surface Water, Environmental Science:Natural Hazards:Extreme Weather, Geoscience:Geology:Igneous and Metamorphic Petrology:Volcanology, Geoscience:Oceanography, Atmospheric Science:Meteorology:Extreme weather

Resource Type

Activities:Writing Assignment

Special Interest


Grade Level

College Lower (13-14):Introductory Level

Earth System Topics

Solid Earth:Plate Tectonics, Earth Materials:Rocks, Solid Earth:Volcanoes, Oceans, Surface Processes:Weathering, Erosion, Mass Wasting, Hydrology, Human Dimensions:Natural Hazards, Atmosphere:Weather, Hydrology:Surface Water


Human Dimensions/Resources, Ocean, Earth surface, Hydrosphere/Cryosphere:Surface Water, Atmosphere, Solid Earth, Tectonics, Petrology:Volcanology


Teach the Earth:Teaching Topics:Water, Teach the Earth:Course Topics:Hydrology/Hydrogeology, Teach the Earth:Teaching Environments:Intro Geoscience, Teach the Earth:Course Topics:Oceanography, Environmental Science, Teach the Earth:Teaching Topics:Weather, Teach the Earth:Incorporating Societal Issues:Hazards, Teach the Earth:Course Topics:Atmospheric Science, Petrology, Teach the Earth:Teaching Topics:Plate Tectonics

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