Natural Disasters
Author: Sylvia Kniest

Time: 1 class period
Preview and cue a video segment on a natural disaster
Materials: Video clip


Natural and human-induced disasters affect societies and wildlife all over the world. Students will discuss what they know about these disasters and the impact they have on humans and their communities.

Students will be able to:
1. Explain the difference between human-induced and natural disasters.
2. List examples of human-induced and natural disasters.
3. Compare how people in different regions adapt their environment to live through natural disasters.

National Geography Standard
All students should

  • Understand how human actions modify the physical environment.
  • Understand how physical systems affect human systems.
  • Understand the changes that occur in the meaning, use, distribution, and importance of resources.

Teacher Background
The teacher may want to use the article; Disaster and health hazard by Dr. Mustafa Abdur Rahim to prepare for the closure activity.

Related and Resource Websites
http://www.thedailystar.net/2005/04/25/d504251502118.htm - Article on natural and human-induced disasters for closure discussion.



Introduce the activity by asking students to:

1. Write a description of a natural disaster.

2. List as many natural disasters that you can think of (volcano, tornado, earthquake, etc).

3. Have you ever witnessed a natural disaster first hand (other than on television)?
Hold a class discussion where students share their answers with the rest of the class. Write the students’ responses to #2 on the board.

  • Show a brief clip of a film that portrays a natural disaster; “Twister”, "Forces of Nature” a National Geographic film, “Earthquake”, “Day After Tomorrow” Tell them to watch for one or more examples of the natural disasters that are listed on the board. After showing the video clip have students discuss:

    1. What were the causes of the natural disasters you witnessed? To what extent do human activities contribute to the recurring disasters? The teacher might use the example that interference in the environmental system such as chopping down trees disrupts the ecological balance thereby resulting in a loosening of the soil and consequent soil erosion which ultimately causes flooding.

    2. What are the consequences of the natural disasters you saw in the video?

    3. Who is most vulnerable and why?

    4. How do humans adapt to their hazard prone environment? For example how do residents of California adapt to living in an environment that may be prone to earthquakes?

    5. Why are natural hazards more damaging in underdeveloped countries than in developed countries?

Tell students that the Asian Disaster Preparedness Center (ADPC) defines disaster as “a sudden or gradually occurring event triggered by human action or by natural causes”. In other words a disaster may be a “natural or human-induced event that deeply disrupts life and normal social environment and inflicts great loss of life and property” (Disaster and health hazard by Dr. Mustafa Abdur Rahim)

  • Ask students to categorize disasters as either natural or human-induced. Write the headings on the board and have students list examples of disasters that would fall under each category. (Natural disasters would include; earthquakes, tornadoes, tsunami, etc. and human-induced disasters could be war, famine, nuclear accident, fires, etc)

Embedded Assessment
Students will be assessed on their participation in the class discussion.


PULSE is a project of the Community Outreach and Education Program of the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center and is funded by:

NIH/NCRR award #16260-01A1
The Community Outreach and Education Program is part of the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center: an NIEHS Award


Supported by NIEHS grant # ES06694

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Last update: November 10, 2009
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