As part of the unit students would be taught the basic principles of the scientific method and it would be used as a basic way for students to observe and carry out class experiments or demonstrations. I intend to have students keep a science journal in which they would record the demonstrations; experiments; and activities they do. They would also be asked to draw diagrams; label them and explain what happened and why.
Writing will be included through analysis of some first hand accounts that are available from Pliny’s recollection of the disaster at Pompeii; to first hand accounts of the San Francisco earthquake, and other occurrences (see lesson plans). If possible students will read and/or be read either of both of Mary Pope Osborne’s Magic Tree House books
Earthquake in the Early Morning or
Vacation under the Volcano.
In each story the main characters Jack and Annie are transported back in time to San Francisco prior to the earthquake and Pompeii before Mt. Vesuvius blew. The stories are entertaining and present aspects of life in those historical times s well as information about what happened.
There are also a variety of picture of volcanoes, and earthquakes from the beauty of Mount Saint Helens to the aftermath of the San Francisco earthquake which could spark some creative writing/oral language discussions with students at all levels including special needs children and English as a second language students (see lesson plans).
For a final project I wanted students to produce a report and have some kind of tangible model or project. While working with my students I realized that they needed more specific direction so I decided that since their main interest seemed to lie in earthquakes and volcanoes that each one of them would be given the opportunity to find out about a famous volcano or earthquake. I put together a list of possible subjects and spent some time reviewing each one and giving some highlights of what happened. Students then chose their topics. One boy chose the Mexico City earthquake of 1985 because his dad comes from Mexico. Another child who is a baseball fan chose the World Series Earthquake of 1989 which occurred during the World Series in California. A little girl chose Mauna Loa because her mom has always wanted to go to Hawaii.
Students had to research their specific disaster and answer a series of questions that I provided to help them. They were given a set of rubrics for their report and for the oral presentation. They also looked up their volcano/ earthquake on line. They had to use two sources one of which they found on the Internet. They also filled in a map showing the location of the disaster. Using the map we have of the plates students were able to see how the movement of particular plates had caused the natural disaster they were researching.
Most made models or posters of their disaster. Some showed what their city looked like before and after the disaster. Another student showed how better construction techniques could have saved lives in the earthquake he was researching.
The students read their reports and explained their findings to their classmates. Other students and teachers viewed the projects and questioned the students about what they had learned as part of the end of the year celebration. In all the parts of the unit that were tried with students their enthusiasm and interest remained high. If anything, I found that there was the continuing necessity to simplify and provide actual hands on experience for students in order for them to understand with any sense of clarity what the unit was trying to accomplish. I hope that what is here will make a start but teaching itself remains a dynamic endeavor and this document will only serve as a crude beginning.