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Activity 1: Disasters

All grade levels
Duration: 1 lesson


In this introductory activity, students will explore natural disasters and human tragedies.

To introduce the Halifax Explosion

Subjects: History, Social Studies

Before Exploring
Write the word "Disaster" on the board or chart paper. Ask students to offer definitions and examples of current and historical disasters and note their responses. Discuss the difference between natural disasters and human-caused tragedies, and why sometimes, like the Titanic, disasters can be both.

Distribute the download sheet Disaster Brainstorming to pairs of students and allow them five minutes to complete the organizer. Review the results of the brainstorming with the whole class.

Outline the Opportunity
Ask: What Canadian natural disasters or human-caused tragedies can you name? Record responses on the board. Direct students to the topic The Halifax Explosion on the CBC Halifax Explosion Web site. Allow students 10 minutes to browse the site. Students should note any new or interesting information not mentioned by the class.

Revisit and Reflect
Have students refer to their notes and the notes on the board and ask: What disasters or tragedies do you consider the most alarming or interesting? What does it mean for those who witness and survive? Did you know about the Halifax Explosion? Why does it fit the general description of a disaster?

Students can investigate the stories in the Disasters and Tragedies section of the CBC Radio and Television Archives Web site. Older students may wish to read one of the following novels about the Halifax Explosion: Barometer Rising by Hugh MacLennan, or Burden of Desire by Robert MacNeil.


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