The holiday season’s traditions of remembrance and giving thanks offer excellent opportunities for students to become aware and concerned about the world around them.  In this blog post,  David Penberg writes about the need to discuss events, such as Superstorm Sandy, with students, and includes a list of themes that would be appropriate to study with students. 

  • Trees: The extent of the damage, what trees provide us with and projects involved in tree planting.
  • Animals: How do urban animals cope with storms? Where do they find refuge? Are their brains wired to know that a natural disaster imminent?
  • Floods and other natural disasters: Historical perspectives of other times and societies that suffered the wrath of the seas and the earth. How did communities respond and restore order?
  • Levies and sea walls: What is the physics and engineering behind them. Examples of projects where they were built. What would be required to do the same along the two rivers that surround New York?
  • Urban infrastructures: Tunnels, bridges, the electrical grid. How old is New York’s? What was involved in constructing it? What would be the benefits of a national effort to rebuild urban infrastructures?
  • Human consequences: The numbers who perished, lost homes, were without power. The emotional impact of surviving. How the city prepared and deployed its resources.
  • Government: What is the role of federal and state authorities in the wake of natural disaster? FEMA: What is it and how does it support people who have been victims of disasters?
  • Urban planning: What are the ways that the infrastructure can be strengthened? Do we have any precedents for this?
  • Disaster organizations involved in aiding people left homeless: Who are they? How do they work? What did they do after Sandy?
  • Involvement: Ways for students to become involved.

The list is as long and complex as the nature of a natural disaster.

As the world flattens, so does our proximity to all global occurrences. In our desire to cultivate responsive and civic minded learners, the tragedy of loss that our own neighbors or family members might have endured, presents real occasions for children to use their agency to make a difference. ‘Tis the season not to be jolly, but to help our children become critically aware and socially and emotionally responsive.

No standardized test can measure the efficacy or urgency of this. Only a widening ethic of care that our children need to bear for each other and the at risk natural world they have inherited.

Continue Reading:  SmartBrief/SmartBlog on Education

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