Lewis McKenzie ePDP

BA (Hons) Education

Disasters Learning Log


By definition, ‘a natural disaster is an act of nature of such magnitude as to create a catastrophic situation in which the day-to-day patterns of life are suddenly disrupted and people are plunged into helplessness and suffering, and, as a result, need food, clothing, shelter, medical and nursing care and other necessities of life, and protection against unfavourable environmental factors and conditions (World Health Organisation, 1971). This in-depth definition covers all bases of a natural disaster and the events that occur as a result. Every year, natural disasters occur throughout the world whether this be extreme flooding in the Philippines, a tsunami on the coasts of Hawaii or a tornado tearing apart the United States. The WHO (2018) estimate that around 90,000 people are killed each year by natural disasters around the world. This is a frightening figure which really hit home with me as I reflected on how lucky myself and the habitants of the United Kingdom really are. The World Health Organisations definition really does cover all bases but other examples of a disaster could be heat waves, droughts, wildfires, landslides or earthquakes. Unfortunately, the list does go on and there are many more adverse disasters that occur through no fault of the world population. As an adult training to be a primary teacher I can see the effect these disasters are having on the world however putting myself into the position of a much younger primary pupil, I struggle to see the bigger picture. Of course, primary pupils understand a natural disaster and what it has done to a specific location however I don’t think they realise the magnitude of the damage left behind and the fact that those in need won’t simply be able to pick up their latest gaming tablet and forget about the world, as their world has quite literally just been turned upside down. Natural disasters are often described as a ‘act of God’ and they are completely out with the control of anyone on this planet. To me, that is the narrowing harsh reality of this theme, there is not much we can do to prevent them as this is the way the world was created, however we can build and develop strategies to try and combat them and reduce the destruction.


I think the key skill that everyone should be aware of in relation to natural disasters is being able to be culturally aware of what is happening around the world. Personally, I take for granted that throughout my life I will never truly experience a natural disaster due to where I live and the environment that is around me. However, across the world there are children experiencing and living through these disasters’ year in, year out of their childhood. I cannot begin to express the hurt that I feel for them and generally this topic and the harsh reality that there isn’t much that I, a young aspiring teacher, can do to help them. After researching not only natural disasters but all of the themes covered, cultural awareness is crucial as we must continually be supporting and praying for our human race around the world and their cultures that are being ripped apart every year. A professional universal skill which I think is crucial to this theme is being research minded. Research and science actively save lives every day. Research into natural disasters and the roots of these would allow governments and communities to plan coherently and effectively to try and minimise the destruction. Of course, disasters often happen overnight with sometimes very little or no warning whatsoever however if we could research and develop strategies that are on standby then we could try and combat the force of natural disasters.


While studying this theme, our cohort was split into groups in which we had to research and present a different natural disaster to the rest of the year. This was such a successful task as it allowed for differing individuals to come together and work as a team but also provide a different viewpoint to the many natural disasters. Forward thinking to my own classroom in the future, I would implement this task in the exact same way. I would allow children to choose and research a natural disaster and then present it to the class in whatever medium suited them. This allows children to be creative and innovative for the benefit of the rest of the children’s learning. This links to the GTCS Standard for Registration 2.1.3 whereby it defines that teachers much be able to ‘demonstrate that they can select creative and imaginative strategies for teaching and learning appropriate to the subject, topic and pupil’s needs.’ It is of course the children choosing their creative method in which they want to present however the class teacher is giving them the autonomy and resources to do so. From a pupil’s perspective I feel they would enjoy this task as children enjoy using their own initiative and creativity to create a project by themselves. If the class teacher then chooses to display this in some form then a sense of pride resonates with the pupils as their hard work and learning is on display for other teachers and children to see. Through the micro-teaching task, I developed my communication and teamworking skills as we had to split our team into different roles and responsibilities. We were all able to use our own initiative while at the same time working towards the common goal and as a team.


Another practical resource that I came across while looking into the theme of natural disasters was experimenting with volcanoes. Volcanoes can quite easily be replicated within a classroom using just baking soda and vinegar. When combined, they form carbonic acid which is very unstable therefore breaks down to create a fizzing or foaming effect which escapes through the eye of the volcano. I think this is a good practical lesson for people to engage with to try and understand the destruction left behind as the ‘foam’ or in real life, the lava, travels down the volcano and through the surrounding communities. This lesson links into the experiences and outcomes within Curriculum for Excellence as it defines that ‘through experimentation, I can identify indicators of chemical reactions having occurred. I can describe ways of controlling the rate of reactions and can relate my findings to the world around me’ (SCN 3-19a, Science Experiences and Outcomes).  This lesson could also be transferable to other curricular areas such as art and design whereby the children could create and design their own volcano in which they will then use for the science experiment.


Reflecting on this theme, it has been the most severe in my opinion due to the human element involved. 90,000 people losing their lives every year is a tragedy and it allows for those not affected to reflect and not take anything for granted. Teaching this within a school could be distressing to some pupils therefore I think I should be treated with caution and if a child is uncomfortable then the teacher must stop the teacher and think of an alternative lesson. It can become quite difficult for a teacher to make such a harrowing topic, like natural disasters, fun and enjoyable for the pupils however with the correct research and planning then it will be effective for all learners.


References and Resources

General Teaching Council for Scotland (2006) Standard for Initial Teacher Education. [Online] Available: http://www.gtcs.org.uk/web/FILES/the-standards/the-standard-for-initial-teacher-education.pdf [Accessed 20 November 2018].


Science Kids (2016) Baking Soda and Vinegar Volcano.[Online] Available: http://www.sciencekids.co.nz/experiments/vinegarvolcano.html [Accessed 20 November 2018].


Scottish Executive (2006) A Curriculum for Excellence: Science Experiences and Outcomes.Edinburgh: Scottish Executive. [Accessed 20 November 2018].


World Health Organisation (1971) Guide to Sanitation in Natural Disasters.(Minister of Health M.Assar). [Online] Available: http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/41031/10678_eng.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y [Accessed 19 November 2018].


World Health Organisation (2018) Natural Events.[Online] Available:https://www.who.int/environmental_health+emergencies/natural_events/en [Accessed 19 November 2018].

Author: Lewis McKenzie

Currently studying BA Education (Hons) at the University of the West of Scotland (Ayr).

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