Excerpts from e-mails sent by teachers about the many ways they are using the Hurricane Katrina disaster to help students learn:
Carim Calkins, science teacher
Frost Middle School, Livonia, Mich.
My students are designing a hurricane-resistant house for extra credit. It is a modification of a lesson during which they are supposed to make a house with metric measurements. Now, they are adding hurricane-proof components to the house and describing how the components are useful. When they are done, they will have a pair of scaled drawings of the house, a list of the hurricane-resistant modifications and at least 20 metric measurements on the house.
Sharon Glass, English teacher
Penn Cambria High School,
Quite coincidentally, my senior Academic English class began the semester with a unit on the theme of heroism in World Literature. One of the selections was even called "Man in the Water," an article about an extraordinary, yet everyday, man who saves survivors of a plane crash by handing over the only life ring over and over to others, until finally his own life is lost. This story, in particular, generated an intense discussion about the lives lost in the aftermath of Katrina.
Some of the best questions asked were: Who will be considered the heroes of this disaster? Why did it take so much time for the government to lend aid? When will the survivors be reunited with family? How can we be helping so many others in the world and not be able to help our own? What could have been done to prevent more people from suffering? If the media could get to the difficult locations, why couldn't they help?
Joyce Saadi, social studies teacher
Sherwood High School, Sandy Spring
In my African American Experience class, we discussed the hurricane in terms of the federal response to the crisis. Our class discussion focused specifically on the implications of race/class, i.e., was there a racial bias that delayed the response [and] we tried to answer the question, "Does poverty have a racial face in America?"
Gregory M. Williams, math teacher
Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School, Germantown
Our first unit in math is data analysis. I gave the students the tracking info for Hurricane Katrina so they could use the wind speed data to create a stem-and-leaf plot. The 8th grade science teachers also used this data to track Hurricane Katrina.
This idea came from a statement on the news that an area over 90,000 square miles was affected by the hurricane, which represents an area about twice the size of Virginia. From this, I could show my students that this area was about seven times the area of Maryland.
Ken Oseneek, social studies teacher
Poolesville High School, Poolesville
I have used Katrina as an example of the weaknesses of a representative democracy:
1. Decisions can take time
2. Red tape in lawmaking (relief process)
3. Blame game (the other parties' fault, the federal/state/local governments' fault, etc.)
4. Media involvement in government (media bias, media role in informing citizens)