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Social Studies



Disaster in the Pacific

Scholastic News Online

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Teaching About the Disaster in Japan

Scholastic News Online has an array of resources about the disaster in Japan. The following is a guide for using these resources to teach this important news event.

Prereading Questions

Activate prior knowledge by asking the following questions:

  • Where is Japan?
  • What do you know about Japan?
    • Build background knowledge by reading these fast facts about this nation made up of four islands.
  • Why has Japan been in the news?
    • An earthquake occurred off the coast of Japan on March 11, 2011. The earthquake caused a series of enormous waves known as a tsunami. Thousands of people were injured or killed as a result of the earthquake and tsunami. Many more have been left homeless and without basic necessities like food and water. The natural disasters also damaged some of the country’s nuclear power stations. These stations usually create electricity safely, but damaged power stations can poison the air.

During Reading

Read the article “Japan Searches for Survivors” as a class. Stop after the first paragraph to explain that the Japanese Prime Minister is similar to a U.S. President. Continue to read through the section “Providing for Survivors,” pausing to allow students to share their feelings about the recovery efforts. Finish reading the article. Discuss why it’s important for countries to help one another in times like these.

After-Reading Activities

  • To better understand the cause of many earthquakes, examine a diagram of the Earth’s tectonic plates. Show where the plates meet near Japan.
  • View a slide show of photos showing the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. With each photo, ask students to think-pair-share about what might be happening in the photo. Then read the caption for each photo as a class and discuss.

How to Help

Experts on disaster relief agree that the best way to help victims of natural disaster is to donate money to reputable organizations rather than trying to donate goods or supplies directly to countries in crisis. If students want to donate their own money or raise money to help, the following organizations, among others, are working hard to ease the suffering of Japan’s earthquake victims:

Discussion and Critical-Thinking Questions

  • What makes Japan a likely place for earthquakes to occur?
  • How could you raise money to donate to the victims of the disaster?
  • In what ways was this earthquake similar to and different from the earthquake in Haiti in 2010?

How to Talk to Children About Natural Disasters

Click here for tips from a child psychologist about how to handle questions from kids about natural disasters. The information was written in response to hurricanes that hit the U.S. in 2005, but it’s designed to serve as a guide for talking to kids about all natural disasters.

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