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Southern Trails Project: Alert! Hurricane Warning!

Introduction. You and your classmates are writers for Hurricane Digest, a well respected magazine for hurricane storm watchers. You have been asked to write a story about what it would be like to experience a hurricane first hand. You want the story to be exciting AND realistic, but you don't know anything about hurricanes. Use information found on the World Wide Web to develop a gripping story about the real life experience of living through a hurricane.

Task. You will use the World Wide Web to gather information to help you write a story describing what it was like to live through one of the worst hurricanes in recent history. Then work together in small groups to present one of your stories to your class.


Process.

Step 1. Hurricane Basics:

Purpose: The purpose of this section is to give you a chance to learn some general information about hurricanes.

Scoring: This section is worth a total of 20 points toward your overall project grade by completing the General Hurricane Questions worksheet, the point value of each question is listed on the worksheet.

Directions: Working on your own, gather some general information about hurricanes using the Web sites listed under Useful Weather Web Sites for Middle Schoolers to find the answers to the General Hurricane Questions. Your teacher has a worksheet for you to fill out as you search the web for answers.

General Hurricane Questions (20 points)

  1. What is the definition of a hurricane?
  2. Defining hurricane terms
    • Eye, Storm Surge, Hurricane Season, Hurricane Warning, Hurricane Watch, Typhoon, Saffir-Simpson Scale, Hurricane Hunters, Landfall, Eye Wall, Coastal Flood Warning, Evacuation Routes
  3. Why does a hurricane form?
  4. How is a hurricane named?
  5. What do the different hurricane categories mean?
  6. What are the different parts of the hurricane?
  7. What are some effects of a hurricane?
  8. When, how and why does a hurricane form?

Useful Weather Web Sites for Middle Schoolers:

Step 2. Getting to Know Hurricanes:

Purpose: During the past 20 years, the southern part of the United States has been hit by some of the worst hurricanes in recorded history. The purpose of this section is to build on the general information about hurricanes you have just learned to get to know more facts about one of these costly natural disasters.

Scoring: This section is worth 20 points toward your overall project grade.

Directions:

  1. Select a hurricane that developed in the past 20 years. Using the web sites listed below, research the following information about the hurricane you selected:
    a. Name
    b. Time period (dates during which the storm was classified as a hurricane)
    c. Category (Maximum intensity)
    d. Maximum sustained wind speed
    e. Reported wind gusts
    f. Damage (in dollars)
    g. Loss of life
    h. Where it made landfall
    i. Height of the storm surge
    j. Any other information deemed relevant

    Use the web sites listed under Useful Web Sites for Hurricanes to find the information about the hurricane you selected. Your teacher has a data worksheet for you to fill out as you search the web for answers. (20 points)
  2. As a class put all the information into an Microsoft Excel spread sheet to create a comparative chart. Discuss the some of the facts you found out about the hurricanes. Which one seems to be the worst hurricane? What did you base your decision on? Were you able to come to consensus about which hurricane was the worst one in recent history?

Step 3. Writing Your Story:

Purpose: Use the information you have learned so far about hurricanes to write a story about what it would have been like to live through a hurricane.

Scoring: This exercise is worth 40 points toward your overall grade. Your teacher will use the rubric found in the Assessment section of this Web page to grade your story.

Directions: Once your class has put all the information about the hurricanes you selected into the spreadsheet. Select one hurricane you would like to write a short story about. Once you have selected a hurricane go to the FEMA Photo Library Search Engine. Scroll down the page until you see the keywords search. Insert the name of the hurricane in the space provided next to keywords. For example, Keywords: Hurricane Floyd. You can use the parameters provided to narrow your search. For example, you could select your state in the pull down menu provided in the "Location" parameter to narrow the search to pictures taken in your state. The search engine will find all the FEMA pictures in their archives that relate to your hurricane. Take some time to look through the pictures of the effects on the people and places hit by the hurricane. Double-clicking on a picture will take you to another web page that provides specific information (location and date picture was taken) about the picture you selected. Select one picture you would like to describe in a story.

Each student should write a creative short story based on a picture from the FEMA Photo Library about what it might have been like to live through a hurricane. (40 points) You can make up anything you like about the people or the place pictured in the photograph. Your teacher will assign the length requirement for your story based on the work your class has done this year. You can either type it on a computer or write it by hand. Your story should contain the following information based on the picture from the FEMA Library:

  • The picture you selected
  • Information about the people in the picture
  • The setting for the story
  • The name of the hurricane
  • At least five interesting things that happened during the hurricane

Step 4. Sharing Your Story:

Purpose: Work together to present one of your stories about living through the hurricane.

Scoring: This exercise is worth 20 points toward your overall project grade. Your teacher will use the rubric found in the Assessment section of this Web page to grade your group presentation.

Directions: Your teacher will divide you into groups of 4 or 5. Each group should work together to create a presentation for your class based one story from your group – your group can decide on which story you would like to present...do a skit, use powerpoint, be creative! (20 points) You will be evaluated using the following criteria:

Hurricane Images:

Assessment.

Project Score Summary Possible Points Suggested Duration
General Hurricane Questions Worksheet 20 Points 1-3 hours of class time
Hurricane Data Sheet 20 Points 2-4 hours of class time
Hurricane Story 40 Points 15-30 minutes to select picture, write story as homework
Group Presentation 20 Points flexible
TOTAL  100 Points 3.5 - 7.5 hours of class time

Conclusion. Congratulations on a job well done! Your editor at Hurricane Digest thought you did a great job researching your story and writing a great piece!

Hurricanes are a fact of life for those of us who live in the southern part of the United States. Through years of research we have found the better educated we are about hurricanes, the better we are prepared to cope with some of the challenges brought by these huge storms. I hope this webquest has given you an chance to learn important information about hurricanes and gain a new perspective about what it might be like to live through one.

All the Web sites listed on this page can lead you to information about other interesting weather patterns you might like to learn more about. Now you all know a lot more about hurricanes. Nice work. You should be proud of yourselves! Remember, learning never stops.

Additional Web Sites for Learning More About Hurricanes: