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The Fury of Nature (Gr 9–12)
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About the Lesson
Prior Knowledge

The Fury of Nature - Hurricanes and the Gulf Coast
Social Studies and Science, Grades 9-12

Using prior knowledge of natural disasters, students will interpret primary source footage and documents through analyzing the impact of Hurricane Beulah on the Gulf Coast. Students will further analyze natural disasters by comparing the effects and responses to Hurricane Beulah and Hurricane Katrina.

The following activity assumes that students have a basic understanding of extreme weather and natural disasters such as hurricanes, tornados, and floods. 

Students should know that Texas' diverse landscape is susceptible to many types of extreme weather. 

Students should have a basic familiarity of both current and historical hurricane activity in the Gulf Coast. A basic working knowledge of Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Sandy is assumed.

OPTIONAL: Have students complete the Natural Disaster Frayer Model worksheet (see Worksheet) to engage their prior knowledge of natural disasters.

Ask students to recount any experiences they have had with hurricanes or other major natural disasters. Ask questions that elicit details, such as: What did each student do to prepare for the event? Did the student stay in his home, or go somewhere else for shelter? How did the student and her family decide to what to do? What was the student's experience before, during, and after the event? How did the student feel? 

As a class, brainstorm the ways one prepares for a hurricane or other natural disaster. After creating the list, ask the students to think about how they know to do these things. Ask them to think critically about who has the knowledge of impending natural disasters, and what methods the community has for alerting and informing the population. Ideally, how should local, state, and federal resources respond before, during, and after the event?

Questions for discussion

Have students respond to questions 1 and 2 with the instructor, and answer 3 and 4 on their own paper.

  1. Why do communities commonly flood after hurricanes?
  2. How can flooding be prevented?
  3. After viewing the film(s), what similarities do you see between this footage and scenes from Hurricane Katrina or another recent natural disaster?
  4. What is the reaction of the children in the video? Why is this surprising?
  5. How is the government responding to the aftermath of the hurricane? How is the community responding?
  6. What is the importance and significance of emergency relief in disaster situations?

Reading to understand

Have students read the following articles. The first article recounts local survivors of Hurricane Beulah, while the second describes the experiences of a man who lived through Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Garcia, Bernice. "Remembering Beulah." 19 September 2017. 12 November2023,

Homan, Michael. "One of the Millions of Hurricane Katrina Stories." Weblog post. Michael Homan. 5 Sept. 2005. 2 July 2009,

Students will answer the following questions on their own for use with small group or class discussion:

  1. What was the most devastating part of the storm for the survivors of Hurricane Beulah?
  2. How did the stories of people in Hurricane Beulah differ from one another? Who seemed to be the most affected by it?
  3. What social factors explain why some people were greatly affected and others were only mildly worried?
  4. Provide three examples of how Hurricane Beulah and Hurricane Katrina were similar.
  5. Provide three examples of how the two hurricanes were different.
  6. After viewing the film and reading backgrounds about the survivors, how have reactions towards hurricanes changed in the past 50 years?
  7. How did Hurricane Beulah directly affect hurricane response in Texas?
  8. Why do disaster relief and recovery seem to take such a long time? How do you think Hurricane Katrina has affected the future of American response to a natural disaster?
  9. How can the tragic aftermath of Hurricane Katrina be prevented the next time a major storm threatens the United States?

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Education Web page featuring a downloadable Climate Literacy Guide, streaming climate literacy presentations, and other environmental literacy educational materials

NOAA document Storm Surge contains student activities and teacher resources related to hurricane flooding

NASA Web site detailing the science behind hurricanes

Internet resources for teaching about Hurricane Katrina topics including physiography, human impacts and development, aftermath of the storm, and human health concerns

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