After seeing that various natural hazards affect different parts of the US, students set out to develop their own protection plans for a natural hazard of their choice. Through research and design, they came up with some very creative and informative ways to educate all types of stakeholders (some images are just screenshots of an interactive "app" but for privacy sake are not hyperlinked). Here are a few examples!
We then returned to our Driving Question Board to answer questions students asked weeks ago. There wasn't a sticky-note left on the board! Here is a sample of questions answered!
And here is our final display with all our natural hazard protection plans on display for our school community to see! Hopefully if they travel to an area that is more prone to a specific natural hazard, they will be prepared and know what to do!
When we launched our tsunami unit, we recognized that there were many other natural hazards. Similar to and different from a tsunami, each natural hazard we identified may be able to be detected and therefore have a chance to warn people ahead of time. Not all natural hazards do this, however, as some sporadically occur without warning. As a result, it is important that people living in high risk areas know what to do.
We used a resource from ARCGis to help us see the risk that various parts of the US have in relation to specific natural disasters.
And after lots of analysis, we figured out that locally here in Boulder County, Colorado, we have a lot of risk for winter weather and wildfires. Next steps: create protection plans for various stakeholders near a natural hazard of our choice!
We agreed that the detection of a tsunami alongside a physical structure to break the wave were only part of our solution. We needed a way to warn people, too! We looked at several examples HERE considering various stakeholders we read about HERE.
We discussed the benefits and drawbacks of each system, considering how various stakeholders would respond to receiving such communication. We then worked to update our Tsunami Chain of Events chart, adding in all the details we've figured out about a Tsunami Protection System!
Looking at Possible Solutions: Breaking the Wave, Detecting the Wave, and Warning People Most Likely to Be Affected
Now that we've figured out how tsunami waves occur, we agreed that we needed to think about solutions. Using an engineering firm's wave tank demonstration video, we saw firsthand the differences between three categories of "break/stop the wave" solutions: walls, breakwaters, and natural vegetation (not shown below). We saw benefits and limitations to each one, focusing on the criteria and constraints we developed as a class.
After sitting in a scientists circle, we couldn't really come to an agreement in any of our classes. While the recurved wall is indeed the best at breaking the wave, we saw that the cost constraint was really challenging to meet, as this design is the most expensive. However, some students suggested that putting the cost upfront would possibly prevent future damage, something tsunami-impacted communities would need to consider.
We also agreed that we could do all the recommending we wanted, but we didn't really know what the people of tsunami-effected communities would want. Mrs. Brinza was able to get her hands on some survivor stories from Japan's devastating 2011 tsunami. Along with better understanding how the detection of a tsunami works, we are seeing how multiple solutions, along with the first-hand account of stakeholders, can impact a community's decision.
We're really putting all these pieces together, thinking about the final piece of this system. We've thought about:
1. Solutions to break the tsunami wave.
2. Solutions to detect the wave, using technology, data, and scientists.
3. Solutions to warn the people most likely to be impacted by the tsunami.
Should the warning be scary? Loud? Informative? Assertive? What happens with people who aren't able to hear? Would lights do the trick? What about people who are more remote? Who don't have access to technology that might send out a warning signal? What about kids? Elderly people? People with disabilities?
How do communities consider all types of people in preparing for and responding to a natural disaster like a tsunami?
We figured out the criteria for a tsunami to occur:
We wanted to know more about how the wave actually moves, as the video footage we looked at looks very different from typical waves. Students wanted to develop a model themselves, so Mrs. Brinza took it upon herself to see if it would work:
This video STUNK! Our ideas for a model were way off, as the scale of an earthquake and tsunami are just beyond the walls of our classroom. So students wanted a bigger, deeper tank. Mrs. Brinza suggested her bathtub...and the students immediately chimed in and said YES! SO Mrs. Brinza recruited her daughter to help film the effects of the plate movement in a deeper, longer body of water!
This certainly helped us see more of what's going with the tsunami waves, but we also needed to see more, especially since water in a tub isn't necessarily the best way to really see what was going on with more scientific videos, so we turned to some geological organizations to help us better understand what's going on with tsunami waves.
After seeing each model, we agreed that there were benefits and limitations to each model, and we summarized our thinking in the following chart (this is one period's example):
All this figuring out about waves made us very aware of how the wave happens, what it does when it reaches different land forms, and how various communities could be affected. We put our "figuring out" process to work, forecasting risk for various locations on a map! Low, flat areas with lots of people who are closer to the epicenter of an earthquake are most at risk!
From the text we read to launch our unit, we saw some parallels between two recent tsunamis--both were preceded by large magnitude earthquakes. But was this a coincidence, or truly a cause?
We turned to collecting and using real data on tsunamis, only to figure out some pretty interesting stuff!
Tsunamis are caused by three events: earthquakes, volcanoes, and landslides. Not all earthquakes cause tsunamis, as earthquakes are WAYYYYYY more common than a tsunami. By analyzing some plate boundaries, we saw that plates colliding or sliding past each other were causing the tsunamis. This also got us thinking that not all areas where plates collide or slide did we see a tsunami. Man, this is confusing!
So students were asked what new data they'd need, if it wasn't quite clear the type of earthquake that causes a tsunami (other than colliding/sliding plates).
And using an incredible data analysis tool at Tuva Labs, we came to these conclusions with real Tsunami Data since 1900!
So if higher magnitude earthquakes that are at a shallow depth actually cause tsunami waves, what actually happens with the wave? Like what does the water do? How is it different than regular waves that happen daily?
We returned to our investigation ideas and even came up with some new ones. Doing a water-wave-demo was on the top of most people's lists. Can we accomplish this in our classroom? With materials we have laying around? Let's see!
In 2011, a devastating tsunami hit the eastern coast of Japan. A similar event in 2004 hit Indonesia. We recognized the incredibly difficult outcomes of these events through edited video and text, including loss of human life.
As a class, we recognized the importance of figuring out what causes such large scale natural hazards with hopes of figuring out and developing realistic solutions--solutions that could notify a tsunami is above to come, warn people one is on its way, or reduce the effects of such a disaster.
This launch of a unit was much more somber, as we are fully aware that natural hazards can be traumatic for many, including some of our classmates and teachers. We still pushed through, identifying related phenomena, documenting our questions, and coming up with ways in which can figure out the answers to our questions.
Our list of related phenomena included:
While we were thinking of investigations, we also recognized that it was important to consider how we'd develop solutions to the tsunami itself--solutions that could first detect the tsunami, then warn people, and lastly minimize the effects of one reaching land. We shared with others, and then the whole class to create a list of possible solutions!
With all our questions, solutions, and investigation ideas, we agreed that before we even consider putting a solution in place, we'd have to figure out some science ideas regarding tsunamis!
In 8th grade, we have to figure out what causes natural disasters and develop solutions to mitigate their effects. The 2011 Japan tsunami was carefully selected as a case study, as this even hopefully would have impacted very few students here in CO. As we figure things out, we can connect these ideas to local natural hazards we may have.