Top Topic - Natural Disasters

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Natural Disasters

Podcast Notes and Links (from TechTalk4Teachers)

September 30, 2011

Episode 124 – 2011 Illinois Teacher of the Year

When teachers are looking for resources relative to this topic, the Library of Congress may not be the first place that comes to mind to look.  Remember, primary sources are created for every event and come in many formats. 

Natural disasters seem to be headlining the news more frequently.  The story may have played out on the other side of the globe or within our own state or community.  Even if we are not directly impacted by the event, it is amazing how many different disciplines and topics these discussions fit into.  Regardless, we want to show our students ways that they can connect with these events and hopefully encourage them to learn more. 

Let’s take a look at the diverse scenarios relative to nature taken to the extreme are reflected in the Library of Congress digitized collections.  We can take a look at items from the basic level of recognizing what they are, to how they fit into curriculum and sample activities that develop critical thinking skills.

Basic level of understanding: what are natural disasters and what types of primary sources exist that are relative? - earthquake, tornado, flood (hurricane, tsunami), drought (dust bowl), heat wave, blizzard, volcano & more.

Basic search from homepage  for images, maps, docs, etc. – when I enter flood in the search box there are 6468 items displayed.  I am shown a long list of relative terms such as flood control, floodplain, floods Mississippi, floods 1920-1930…  The same would happen for tornado, blizzard, etc.

Today in History– archive search for flood gave 12 hits ranging from the 1775 creation of the Army Corp of Engineers to modern day.  We heard about flooding farms and rerouting the Mississippi in So IL this year and I was fascinated by information on the Hoover Dam.


Ideas for different content areas

Science –

the most obvious fit.  Beyond the homepage, primary sources in American Memory collections. Weather and events are referenced in the Papers of Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln as well as those from the Chicago Daily News,  Prairie Settlement and more. 

Do you know about Everyday Mysteries?  from the Kids and Families link.  Science based questions with answers and an opportunity to ask questions.

Geography – 

Map Collections offer resources for studying changes in landscapes over time, Places in the News .

Social Studies/History

Use maps to research impact on communities, culture over time. 

Languages arts-

Setting and context can be studied for the dust bowl in American Memory – America from the Great Depression to World War II (Photographs from the FSA/OWI 1935-1945), American Life Histories:  Manuscripts from the Federal Writers’ Project, 1936-1940  and Voices from the Dust Bowl.

Taking it into the Classroom and Critical Thinking

Nature’s Fury – a lesson for grades 6-12 looking at personal stories about natural disasters from the late 19th and early 20thcenturies through newly invented motion pictures, panoramic photos, personal accounts and poignant song lyrics.

Topics in Chronicling America – 
The Great San Francisco Earthquake, 1906 – various articles that students can review and compare perceptions from different newspapers

Next month in honor of Veterans Day we will look at music available at and discuss copyright, fair use and guidelines.

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