Recovery! Coping With the Effects of a Natural Disaster

Recovery! Coping With the Effects of a Natural Disaster
Laura Bush: Religion, Social Issues and Reform

Skill: High School/College
Time Required: One to two weeks


Natural disasters such as hurricanes, tornados, landslides, floods, and earthquakes happen periodically in the United States.  When this occurs the country unites to begin helping people recover by rebuilding a city or community.  One example is Hurricane Katrina that devastated the Gulf Coast but specifically, New Orleans, Louisiana, in 2005.  There were debates about what happened concerning the aid from the government and if the city should even be rebuilt.  However, President Bush, Laura Bush, and the citizens of the United States have continued their efforts even a year later by providing money, assistance, and volunteers to reconstruct and rebuild the city to capture its original history with a touch of hope for the future.


Students will learn some of the basics of rebuilding and restoring a city by planning  elements of recovery in a virtual city (perhaps their own city or community) after a natural disaster.

Materials Required:

Computer with Internet access, books, magazine, newspapers, paper, writing utensils, art supplies (or computer drawing program such as Paint), printer, and word processor.


1.  Natural disasters occur periodically and can sometimes be devastating.  However, when a disaster occurs, it provides the opportunity to rebuild and restore.
2.  Using some of the websites listed below, discuss with students a variety of natural disasters and how people rebuild and restore the area after such an event.  Teachers can provide such examples as Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans in 2005 or local or state event with which students are familiar. 

3.  Provide students with the following scenario: 

Recently, a tornado (teacher can choose another disaster relevant to the area) came through your community.  Although no one was hurt, there was plenty of property destruction.  The mayor and other government officials have called on you to help rebuild the city.  Your task is to research the history, items, and special places that make the area great and plan the rebuilding of your community, taking all its best features into consideration.

4.  Tell students to speak with their parents, family members, and friends about the city or community and what makes the community special such as parks, shops, homes, historical landmarks, etc.  The teacher might want to create a worksheet with these questions to guide students and parents. In addition, have students use the Internet to research their community, as well as rebuilding efforts that have occurred elsewhere.
5.  Place students into groups of four or five.  Ask students to list items that they obtained from the interviews of their parents, family members, and friends.  Encourage students to create a larger list as a whole group.
6.  Each small group is responsible for the design of their rebuilt and restored community.  Students should include in their design any difficulties or barriers to restoration that they think they might encounter (e.g., the condition of the levees in New Orleans).  Encourage students to be creative.  They are responsible for:

  • Drawing a map like those that are provided on the Internet. (This can be done in Paint or other drawing program.) Each item on the list should be labeled.
  • Sketching the city’s appearance and having a key or legend to explain different markings. 
  • Listing the historical items, landmarks, homes, and / or shops that would be in the community.
  • Students can draw pictures of how certain landmarks would look after they rebuild it.  Or, they can take photographs in the community to illustrate what needs to be rebuilt, restored, or replaced.  

7.  A final part of the assignment includes writing a short paper that is essentially a proposal to the city fathers, stating how they would rebuild the community, what factors need to be considered, an estimate of how long it will take, and why each item included is important.
8.  Allow each group of students to present their rebuilt city to the class.
9.  Create a class album in a binder for parents, staff, and students to view during conferences.

Extending the Lesson:

Have students build models of their city.  These can be completed with food items, paper, Popsicle sticks, etc.  Encourage the students to be creative.

Sources & Resources:

The Debate About Rebuilding New Orleans: Pro

The Debate About Rebuilding new Orleans: Con

Responding to Natural Disasters

Ensuring Food Safety in the Aftermath of a Natural Disaster

Dealing with a Natural Disaster

How to Survive a Natural Disaster Aftermath


Surviving Tornadoes

Tornado Recovery Efforts 

This lesson was developed by Marian Maxfield, Kent State University.