Wednesday, August 31, 2011

11 Resources for Teaching and Learning About the Forces of Nature

After last weekend's visit from Hurricane Irene I have forces of nature on my brain. I guess there is something about seeing a giant tree across your neighbor's yard will do that to you. Therefore, today I assembled a list of some of my favorite resources for teaching and learning about forces of nature.

This one is a couple of years old but it is still good. USA Today has a slide presentation explaining how tornadoes are formed and what to do if you find yourself in the path of a tornado. The slide show is controlled by the viewer who moves a slider at the bottom of the screen to explore the formation of a tornado.


Forces of Nature is a film produced by National Geographic designed to educate students about volcanoes, earthquakes, hurricanes, and tornadoes. The Forces of Nature website provides a nice list of complete lesson plans for teachers of students in grades K through 12. Even if you can't get a copy of the movie, most of the lesson plans and activities are still very usable. Teachers of grades K through 6 may also want to check out the National Geographic Kids page titled Ten Freaky Forces of Nature.

If you can't acquire the Forces of Nature film (available on Amazon $17.99), you may want to consider a similar film from National Geographic titled Violent Earth. Violent Earth can be viewed for free on Snag Films. Using Snag Films you can also embed the Violent Earth video into your blog, wiki, or website.

The USGS in partnership with the University of Utah produces the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory. The Yellowstone Volcano Observatory records and publishes data about volcanic activity in Yellowstone National Park. Much of the material on the site is very scientific in nature, but the Observatory website does offer some educational materials accessible to the non-scientist. The Yellowstone Volcano Observatory offers three videos about the volcanoes of Yellowstone. The Observatory also offers photographic tours of Yellowstone.


Shape It Up is one of many good educational games and activities on Kinetic City. Shape It Up is an activity that would be good for use in an elementary school Earth Science lesson. The activity presents students with "before" and "after" images of a piece of Earth. Students then have to select the force nature and the span of time it took to create the "after" picture. If students choose incorrectly, Shape It Up will tell the student and they can choose again.

Stop Disasters is a game designed for students to learn about natural disasters, disaster prevention, and city design. There are five game scenarios that students can play. Students can plan to prepare for hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, wildfires, and tsunamis. The scenarios are set in geographically accurate contexts of Europe, Asia, Australia, and the Caribbean.

The USGS produces a good assortment of resources for teaching and learning about earthquakes. The USGS has resources for teachers and for students on every grade level from elementary school through college. Not included in the teachers resource section, but including in the general education page, are these flash animations of earthquakes and seismic activities. For Google Earth users the USGS produces Google Earth files for viewing earthquakes. One set of Google Earth files that the USGS produces allows you to view seismic activity in near-real time (the file refreshes every five minutes).

Violent Earth, produced by National Geographic, is a film about the causes of earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, and hurricanes. It's an excellent documentary if you have the time to watch it. But if you're searching for a shorter video explanation of the causes of tsunamis, National Geographic has something to fit that bill too. Tsunamis 101 is a three and one-half minute video about how a tsunami is caused and why they can be so deadly. The video is embedded below.



Volcano Above the Clouds is a NOVA program that chronicles an ascent of Mount Kilimanjaro by a group of climbers and scientists. In addition to the video, Volcano Above the Clouds offers a large collection of materials and teaching guides for learning about volcanoes, glaciers, and climate change with Mount Kilimanjaro at the center of each lesson. As Mount Kilimanjaro is one of the Seven Summits of the world, NOVA provides a slideshow of the Seven Summits which puts Kilimanjaro into perspective relative to those other summits.

The BBC has a series of interactive guides that explain how natural disasters are caused. Included in this series is a twelve part animated explanation of volcanic eruptions. The series also includes explanations of hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, and tsunamis.

















For learning about earthquakes, the BBC has an animated guide to earthquakes. National Geographic offers an in-depth lesson plan for teaching elementary school students about earthquakes and volcanoes. National Geographic also has some excellent educational films about earthquakes, but if you do not have the budget to purchase them you may want to try Snag Films where you can watch full length documentaries like Violent Earth for free.