This page contains content from the Xpeditions website, which is now archived. The National Geographic Education website, natgeoed.org, includes some of our most popular archival content in its original format.

Recommended New Resources

We recommend these new resources as alternatives to the archived content on this page. Please explore and don't forget to update your bookmarks!

Please note: We are no longer updating the content on archived pages. Archived content may contain dated information and broken links.

Grades K-2
This lesson teaches students some of the basics of earthquakes and volcanoes . It also asks them to think about how people living in cities and suburbs must plan ahead by constructing sturdy buildings and preparing their homes and themselves for the possibility of a natural disaster. Students will therefore be introduced to some basic concepts of physical geography, as well as some of the ways in which the physical environment affects people's lives.
Connections to the Curriculum:
Geography, physical science
Connections to the National Geography Standards:
Standard 7: "The physical processes that shape the patterns of Earth's surface"
Standard 15: "How physical systems affect human systems"
Two hours

Materials Required:
  • Computer with Internet access
  • "The Three Little Pigs" story
  • Photos of earthquake faults and volcanoes
  • Writing and drawing materials
Students will
  • listen to "The Three Little Pigs" and discuss the importance of having strong and sturdy buildings;
  • view pictures of an earthquake fault and volcanoes, and discuss these two types of natural disasters;
  • listen to earthquake safety recommendations; and
  • draw pictures or write letters telling the three little pigs how to prepare their homes and themselves for an earthquake.
Geographic Skills:

Acquiring Geographic Information
Organizing Geographic Information
Analyzing Geographic Information

S u g g e s t e d   P r o c e d u r e
Read students "The Three Little Pigs," or have them tell you the story. An online version is available at the Folklore and Mythology Electronic Texts site .

Pose these questions to the class: Which house was the sturdiest? Which was the least sturdy? What type of construction material would they recommend pigs use if they live in an area inhabited by big bad wolves?

Ask students why they think it's a good idea for people to build strong, sturdy buildings. Although there are probably no big bad wolves in their area, there may other factors that might affect whether a building remains in good or not-so-good condition after a natural event like a big storm. Ask the students what those factors are.

Ask students if they have ever heard of earthquakes and volcanoes. What do they think happens during an earthquake or a volcano? Has anyone ever experienced either of these natural events?

Tell students that earthquakes occur when two parts of the Earth move against each other. A simple demonstration you can do in the classroom is to move two desks together and place a few items on each desk. Move the desks rapidly against each other, and have students notice what happens to the items on the desks.

Show students a picture of the San Andreas Fault and explain that a fault is a place where two parts of the Earth sometimes rub against each other, causing an earthquake.

Explain that volcanoes occur when extremely hot liquid and gas from deep underground comes to the surface. This only happens in places where the Earth's surface is able to open up to let the liquids and gasses out. Make sure students realize that most parts of the U.S. are not in danger of being affected by a volcano. Show them some pictures of volcanoes at National Geographic's Forces of Nature or the University of North Dakota's Volcanoes! .

Ask students to think back to the story of the three little pigs. Do they think it would have been a good idea for the pigs to build their brick house right next to a volcano? What about right on top of an earthquake fault? What if there were no place else to build their home? Ask students to describe some of the things they think the pigs should do if they needed to build near a volcano or fault.

Share with the class some of the earthquake preparedness tips of the American Red Cross .

Have students draw pictures (or write letters) for the three little pigs, showing them what to do to protect their brick house and themselves from an earthquake.

Suggested Student Assessment:
Have students discuss the types of natural hazards that exist in their area (besides earthquakes and volcanoes), such as thunderstorms, hurricanes, or tornadoes. Have them draw pictures of people preparing their homes for these events. You might want to have them explore the FEMA for Kids site for ideas.
Extending the Lesson:
Tell the class that there are adults whose jobs are to design homes and to think of the best construction materials for homes in different locations. Why do they think this is an important job in an area where there is a risk of earthquakes or volcano eruptions? Why is this an important job in the area where they live?
Related Links:

Tell us what you think