• 1. Activate students' prior knowledge about extreme natural events.
    Ask: What do you already know about extreme natural events? Have students brainstorm a list of extreme natural events around the world, such as:

    • avalanches
    • earthquakes
    • wildfires
    • flooding or drought
    • hurricanes
    • tornadoes
    • volcanoes
    • snowstorms or blizzards
    • severe thunderstorms, hail

    Ask: What type is most likely to happen in our area? Then look at the photo gallery of extreme natural events. As you look at each photo, ask students if they or their families have ever experienced any of these conditions. Invite volunteers to share their experiences. Ask: How did you protect yourself? How do you think you could have been better prepared?

    2. Have pairs write descriptions of extreme natural events.
    Divide students into pairs. Show students photographs of natural disasters on the National Geographic Natural Disasters web page. For each image, ask pairs to write two captions to describe the event the image shows. Have pairs share their captions as you look at each photo as a class. As you look at each photo, ask:

    • What makes this event "extreme"?
    • What could be dangerous about this event?


    3. Discuss how extreme natural events are the same and different.
    After students have looked at all of the photos, ask:

    • How are some of the events the same?
    • How are some of the events different?

    For example, students may point out that hurricanes, tornadoes, and thunderstorms all have strong winds and snowstorms. Avalanches and blizzards both have snow. Ask: Which extreme natural event do you think is most dangerous? Why?

  • Subjects & Disciplines

    Learning Objectives

    Students will:

    • discuss types of extreme natural events
    • compare characteristics of extreme natural events

    Teaching Approach

    • Learning-for-use

    Teaching Methods

    • Discussions
    • Multimedia instruction
    • Writing

    Skills Summary

    This activity targets the following skills:

    Connections to National Standards, Principles, and Practices

    National Council for Social Studies Curriculum Standards

    • Theme 3:  People, Places, and Environments

    National Geography Standards

    • Standard 7:  The physical processes that shape the patterns of Earth's surface

    National Science Education Standards

  • Materials You Provide

    • Paper
    • Pencils
    • Pens

    Required Technology

    • Internet Access: Required
    • Tech Setup: 1 computer per classroom, Projector
  • Background Information

    Extreme natural events like hurricanes, floods, and wildfires can cause damage and harm to people, animals, and environments. Humans are better able to prepare for and recover from extreme natural events if they understand the dangers.

    Prior Knowledge


      Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
      extreme natural event Noun

      short-term changes in the weather or environment that can have long-term effects, like a storm or earthquake.

      natural disaster Noun

      an event occurring naturally that has large-scale effects on the environment and people, such as a volcano, earthquake, or hurricane.

      For Further Exploration