T2 - Hurricane Season-Prepare!
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Here it is, September, and your Emergency Operations Plan is not yet complete. As Emergency Management Coordinator for Suffolk County, you know that in the past North Carolina has experienced its worst storms in the fall - like about now! Your worst fear is that a hurricane will come towards the N.C. coast and you won't have a plan in place. Determined to get the emergency plan finished as soon as you can, you pick up the phone to assemble your planning team.

Weeks later:
As you put the finishing touches on your plan, far away off the coast of Africa, a tropical storm is forming...

With this scenario, students are placed in the role of a County Emergency Management Coordinator who must finalize an emergency management plan for a county located in the southeastern tip of North Carolina. Just about the time the plan is completed a very powerful hurricane heads across the Atlantic and turns northward, directly towards the South Carolina/North Carolina coast.



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As students investigate this problem situation they learn about government agencies, civic organizations, emergency management, storm preparedness, weather prediction, and a particular type of storm known as a tropical cyclone, or hurricane.

Working through this unit, students enlarge their understanding of the concepts of prediction, probability, and preparedness. Unit content interrelates these concepts in a significant "big idea," or essential understanding: Predictions of high probability inform preparedness.

Hurricane Season - Prepare! is a problem-based learning PPT(PBL) unit, as are all of the T2 units PDF. The skills that are developed through participation in a PBL unit include decision-making, critical thinking, and, of course, problem solving. T2 units also highlight the effective use of metacognition and collaboration.

This unit is designed for upper elementary level (4th or 5th grade) and integrates the content areas of science and social studies. Mathematics and language arts skills also are called upon, as are technology skills. Appropriate state (NC) and national standards PDF have been identified and can be found in the Professional Information Center.

The time frame is variable, to be determined by each teacher. We recommend a minimum of two weeks for the preparedness section, then an additional week of tracking the hurricane.

NOTE: Hurricane "Harriet" is modeled after Hurricane Hazel, by many accounts the most destructive hurricane in North Carolina history. It came ashore as a Category 4 storm with 140 mph winds and a storm surge of 18 feet. As it swept up the eastern United States and into Canada, it left 19 people dead and over 200 injured, 15,000 homes and buildings destroyed, 30 counties with major damage, and an estimated $136 million in property loss in North Carolina alone.

"Suffolk County" is fictitious. The location we have given it is actually in Brunswick County. The county seat of "Poseidon" is also fictitious. We located it in the direct path of where Hurricane Hazel came ashore on October 15, 1954.

We have included information and references about this hurricane in the Professional Development Center. We thought after the unit is over, and students have made their decisions, you would want to share this bit of history with them.


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Multiple means of assessment are suggested over the course of the unit. Visit the Professional Information Center for more information and for examples. Access to some of these items is also available through the Student Investigation Center.

Checkpoints, signified by the symbol check, are short quizzes meant to be used by students to self-check their content knowledge and skills as they work through unit tasks. We have embedded an example or two in the unit's Learning Tasks, but teachers will want to add others to accompany the information they consider important.

Product/Performance Rubrics for evaluating Class ParticipationPDF, Teamwork PDF, and Presentation PDF are available for use with the unit. Other rubrics, or scoring guidelines, may be developed for specific tasks and activities. Each task included in Hurricane Season - Prepare! includes products or performances that can supply assessment information.

Problem Logs provide a good way to check the metacognitive thinking of your students. Each student should keep a log, making contributions each day. Teachers may use the log as a place for "minute writes" if they choose. See an example PDF of a Problem Log with minute write questions in the Professional Information Center. A blank PDF Problem Log is available for students in the Student Investigation Center.

Concept Maps are sometimes used by teachers as assessment tools since they can provide evidence of change in conceptual understanding. If you are interested in using concept maps as assessment PDF, click here or see the reference to a brief explanation in the Professional Information Center.


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If you are intrigued enough to proceed, go to the Engagement HTML section to get started on the first phase of problem-based learning.


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As you proceed through the unit, we invite you to share your experiences HTML with us, and we will share with you what we have heard from others in the Communication Center. Together, we have much to learn!

Hurricane Isabel - NOAA
Photo courtesy of NASA

Copyright © 2004 Elon University.