OpenSciEd: 6.5 Natural Hazards 1-Class Unit Kit


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Grades 6–8. In Unit 6.5 Natural Hazards, Carolina Certified Version*, students work to answer the Unit Driving Question: "Where do natural hazards happen and how do we prepare for them?"

This unit begins with students experiencing, through text and video, a devastating natural event that caused major flooding in coastal towns of Japan. This event was the 2011 Great Sendai or Tohoku earthquake and subsequent tsunami that caused major loss of life and property in Japan. Through this anchoring phenomenon, students think about ways to detect tsunamis, warn people, and reduce damage from the wave. As students design solutions to solve this problem, they begin to wonder about the natural hazard itself: what causes it, where it happens, and how it causes damage.

The first part of the unit focuses on identifying where tsunamis occur, how they form, how they move across the ocean, and what happens as they approach shore. Students investigate these ideas using maps, graphs, physical models, videos, and simulations. They use these science ideas to forecast which communities are most at risk for a tsunami and why.

The second part of the unit transitions students to consider combinations of engineering design solutions and technologies to mitigate the effects of tsunamis. Students evaluate different design solutions and technologies by identifying criteria and constraints and using a systematic process to rate the solutions and identify trade-offs. Realizing that design solutions can sometimes fail, as they did during the 2011 earthquake, students recognize the need to prepare for such hazardous events. Students consider communication and education systems that prepare community stakeholders so they can respond appropriately when a tsunami approaches. Finally, students apply these science ideas to consider how to communicate about a different natural hazard to stakeholders in a community.

In this unit, students develop an understanding of the following science ideas:

  • Data about where hazards have occurred in the past can determine where hazards may happen in the future and which communities are at risk.
  • Impacts of natural hazards can be mitigated by knowing how quickly a hazard develops and moves, and how large and intense it can become.
  • Engineering design solutions include structural solutions and technologies to detect hazards, warn people, and reduce damage.
  • Design solutions and technologies can be evaluated using a systematic process that accounts for an understanding of the science of the hazard and the needs of the people at risk.
  • Communication strategies include educating the community before a natural hazard happens and alerting people when the hazard is happening.
  • Knowledge about hazards (the causes of the hazard, locations at risk, how to design solutions, and how to respond when it happens) can empower us and others to design safer communities and save lives.

This 1-Class Unit Kit includes basic teacher access to instructional materials on, plus the materials needed to teach 1 class of 32 students per day.

Building Toward NGSS Performance Expectations

  • MS-PS4-3: Integrate qualitative scientific and technical information to support the claim that digitized signals (sent as wave pulses) are a more reliable way to encode and transmit information.
  • MS-ESS3-2: Analyze and interpret data on natural hazards to forecast future catastrophic events and inform the development of technologies to mitigate their effects.
  • MS-ETS1-1: Define the criteria and constraints of a design problem with sufficient precision to ensure a successful solution, taking into account relevant scientific principles and potential impacts on people and the natural environment that may limit possible solutions.
  • MS-ETS1-2: Evaluate competing design solutions using a systematic process to determine how well they meet the criteria and constraints of the problem.

Focal Science and Engineering Practices

  • Using Mathematics and Computational Thinking
  • Engaging in Argument from Evidence
  • Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information
  • Analyzing and Interpreting Data

The following practices are also key to the sensemaking used by students in the unit:

  • Asking Questions and Defining Problems
  • Developing and Using Models
  • Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions

Focal Disciplinary Core Ideas

  • ESS3.B
  • ETS1.A
  • ETS1.B
  • PS4.C

Focal Crosscutting Concepts

  • Cause and Effect
  • Systems and System Models
  • Stability and Change

The following crosscutting concepts are also key to the sensemaking used by students in the unit:

  • Patterns
  • Structure and Function

*All enhancements to materials and instruction for this Carolina Certified Version of the unit are approved by OpenSciEd to preserve the integrity of the storyline and the instructional model.


What’s Included:
  •  Unit Technology Pack (basic digital access to teacher's guide and all instructional resources for the teacher)
  •  Card Sets, Tsunami
  •  Pencil, Assorted Colors, Sets
  •  Push Pins
  •  Cards, Index, Plain (unruled), 3 x 5"
  •  Cards, Index, Plain (unruled), 5 x 8"
  •  Labels, Assorted, 1/4"
  •  Note Pad, Self-Adhesive, Large
  •  Note Pads, Self-Adhesive, Medium
Needed But Not Included:
Return Policy:

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