Open-and-go lessons that inspire kids to love science.

Sign up now for tons of free lessons like this one!

Watery Planet    Mystery 4

Mystery 4 image

In this Mystery, students examine the causes of flooding using the real-world example of Hurricane Katrina. In the activity, students propose plans to prevent flooding and save historic buildings in a coastal town–all while staying within budget!

How can you save a town from a hurricane?

Beginning Exploration (1 of 7)
Full Screen
Exit full screen whiteExit Full Screen
Beginning Exploration (2 of 7)

DISCUSS (1 of 2):

Where does the water in a hurricane come from?

Full Screen
Exit full screen blackExit Full Screen
Beginning Exploration (3 of 7)

DISCUSS (2 of 2):

Why is there so much rain from a hurricane?

Full Screen
Exit full screen blackExit Full Screen
Beginning Exploration (4 of 7)
Full Screen
Exit full screen whiteExit Full Screen
Beginning Exploration (5 of 7)

DISCUSS:

Why do you think some areas of New Orleans flooded while others did not?

Full Screen
Exit full screen blackExit Full Screen
Beginning Exploration (6 of 7)
Full Screen
Exit full screen whiteExit Full Screen
Beginning Activity Prep
Full Screen
Exit full screen whiteExit Full Screen

Save Beachtown

This activity is a simulation, similar to the “Wanted: A Well” activity in Watery Planet Mystery 2. In “Save Beachtown,” students will optimize engineering strategies to save a coastal town from flooding in a hurricane—paying attention to flooding from both a river and an ocean storm surge.

Step 1: Plan ahead

This simulation is very engaging and may take more than 20 minutes for students to complete. Consider dividing this lesson into two class periods. We’ve provided challenge questions in the Extras section for those who want to extend the activity.

If you have a large group, students will work in teams of four. If you have just a few students, they can form a smaller team. A solo student can do the activity alone, but we think it’s more fun with friends.

If you’re working with a large group, you may want students to post their final work for others to see. If you decide to do this, you’ll need wall space and supplies (tape, pushpins, etc.).

Step 2: Print out worksheets

Each group of four students (or each student working alone) will need all the worksheets listed below. Print out the complete set here.

Each group will need:

  • One 2-page Final Plan for the Town Council, in which students work together to figure out and finalize a plan that fits the town’s budget
  • One Flood Protection sheet with pictures of all four solutions to cut out

In addition, each student in the group will need:

  • One of the four Student Engineer worksheets (These sheets describe four different solutions to the problem of flooding: Seawalls, Wetlands, Levees, and Stilts. Students will use them to figure out which buildings they can protect using each solution. All four must be used.)
  • A Budget sheet where they can calculate how much applying the solutions will cost

Step 3: Gather supplies

Each group will need:

  • A strip of removable gummy glue dots, like these, to share

In addition, each student in the group will need:

  • Pencils (to mark up maps and for calculations)
  • One red and one blue pencil or marker (If you don’t have enough red, you can use orange, pink, or any similar shade; if you don’t have enough blue, use any shade of green or blue.)
  • Scissors
Beginning Activity: Save Beachtown
Full Screen
Exit full screen whiteExit Full Screen
Beginning Activity: Save Beachtown
Full Screen
Exit full screen whiteExit Full Screen
Beginning Activity: Save Beachtown
Full Screen
Exit full screen whiteExit Full Screen
Beginning Activity: Save Beachtown
Full Screen
Exit full screen whiteExit Full Screen
Beginning Activity: Save Beachtown
Full Screen
Exit full screen whiteExit Full Screen
Beginning Activity: Save Beachtown
Full Screen
Exit full screen whiteExit Full Screen
Beginning Activity: Save Beachtown
Full Screen
Exit full screen whiteExit Full Screen
Beginning Activity: Save Beachtown
Full Screen
Exit full screen whiteExit Full Screen
Beginning Activity: Save Beachtown
Full Screen
Exit full screen whiteExit Full Screen
Beginning Activity: Save Beachtown
Full Screen
Exit full screen whiteExit Full Screen
Beginning Activity: Save Beachtown
Full Screen
Exit full screen whiteExit Full Screen
Beginning Activity: Save Beachtown
Full Screen
Exit full screen whiteExit Full Screen
Beginning Activity: Save Beachtown
Full Screen
Exit full screen whiteExit Full Screen
Beginning Activity: Save Beachtown
Full Screen
Exit full screen whiteExit Full Screen
Beginning Activity: Save Beachtown
Full Screen
Exit full screen whiteExit Full Screen
Beginning Activity: Save Beachtown
Full Screen
Exit full screen whiteExit Full Screen
Beginning Activity: Save Beachtown
Full Screen
Exit full screen whiteExit Full Screen
Beginning Activity: Save Beachtown
Full Screen
Exit full screen whiteExit Full Screen
Beginning Activity: Save Beachtown
Full Screen
Exit full screen whiteExit Full Screen
Beginning Activity: Save Beachtown
Full Screen
Exit full screen whiteExit Full Screen
Beginning Activity: Save Beachtown
Full Screen
Exit full screen whiteExit Full Screen
Beginning Activity: Save Beachtown
Full Screen
Exit full screen whiteExit Full Screen
Beginning Activity: Save Beachtown
Full Screen
Exit full screen whiteExit Full Screen
Beginning Activity: Save Beachtown
Full Screen
Exit full screen whiteExit Full Screen
Beginning Exploration (7 of 7)
Full Screen
Exit full screen whiteExit Full Screen
Beginning Complete!

You've completed the Exploration & Activity!

If you have more time, view the assessment, reading and extension activity in the optional extras.

Full Screen
Exit full screen blackExit Full Screen

Optional Extras

Below are ideas for extending this topic beyond the activity and exploration you just completed.
Full Screen
Exit full screen blackExit Full Screen

Activity Extension

Tell your students that the people of Beachtown had a meeting to discuss the proposals your class came up with. Ask your students how they would answer their questions or address their issues.

Remember: There are no right answers and it may be difficult to make everyone happy.

  • Mrs. Green doesn’t like the plans that include wetlands because she thinks wetlands have lots of mosquitoes. What would you say to convince Mrs. Green that wetlands are a good idea?
  • Mr. Crawford's great-great-grandfather owned the historic general store on Ocean Avenue. He says that stilts are not historically accurate. Can you protect that building without using stilts and stay within budget?
  • Mr. Hunter is a bird watcher. He thinks you should make a nature trail through the wetlands for bird watchers. Do you have the budget for that?
  • Suppose the town council got a federal grant to help. Now they have another $200,000 to spend and they want to protect as many ordinary (non-historic buildings) as possible. How would you revise your plan?
Full Screen
Exit full screen blackExit Full Screen

Readings

These readings are free with registration on Newsela Elementary. A writing prompt and a quiz is available for each reading.

Full Screen
Exit full screen blackExit Full Screen

Video Discussion

This time-lapse movie shows a satellite view of the 2012 hurricane season — from June 1 to November 29 — in less than 5 minutes. The excitement starts with hurricane Chris at 0:22, followed by Debbie at 0:30, Ernesto at 1:27, and more.

As you watch, try to answer these questions:

  • Which way does each hurricane spin? Do they all spin the same way?
  • If you were worried about hurricanes, where wouldn't you want to live?
  • What do you notice about the names for hurricanes?
  • What happens to Sandy (a superstorm) after it moves onto the land?

You’ll find more satellite views of hurricanes here.

Full Screen
Exit full screen blackExit Full Screen

Activities

  • After watching and discussing the movement of hurricanes, have your students plot a hurricane’s path with this activity. Then have students write about the hurricane’s origin, its travels, and its decline from the point of view of the storm itself.

  • If you want a more hands-on experience (and you’re willing to take on a messy experiment), check out this Teach Engineering activity, in which students make a model of a river and learn first-hand what happens when it floods.

Full Screen
Exit full screen blackExit Full Screen

Online Simulation: Make Your Own Hurricane

  • Before you can make a hurricane, you’ll need to know more about how they form. You’ll find helpful articles on these sites from the University Center for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) and Sciencing.

  • Then give UCAR’s Create-A-Cane, a try. First, you make a tropical depression by changing sea temperature, air moisture, wind’s speed and direction, and latitude. (The "?" will give you tips.) When conditions are just right, your score reaches 80 and you have the beginning of a hurricane. Then follow the instructions on each screen to make your hurricane. It isn’t easy, but you can do it!

Full Screen
Exit full screen blackExit Full Screen