Natural Hazards NGSS MS ESS3-2


In the Natural Hazards mini unit, students dive into the hazards that significantly impact humans (severe storms, blizzards, landslides, tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, droughts, forest fires, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, tsunamis). Students then choose one natural hazard to learn more about and create a safety poster for their hazard.


The extension activity asks students design two structures to test on an earthquake shaker (building directions included) and answer the question, “How can I build a structure to better withstand earthquakes?” This is an excellent way to introduce the engineering standard NGSS MS ETS1-2.

Anchor Phenomenon Ideas: This is an excellent unit to connect to current events around the world. Find an article, video or photo of a recent natural disaster to share with students and discuss what they Know and what they Want to Know about the event. Then, reflect on what they Learn throughout the unit.

Make it Relevant: This topic is a favorite unit with middle school students! Kids will ask many questions and you can simply say, "Why don't you find out and let me know."

Tips and Tricks: As students work through question two, ask them why natural hazards that are predictable can still cause so much damage. When tornadoes, floods and tsunamis are predicated, there is often very little time between the prediction and the event.


Students quickly dive into their research as they learn more about one specific natural hazard for question four.

These websites are great places for kids to begin: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration,

U.S. Geological Survey and National Geographic.

Extension Activity: Students are highly engaged in this engineering project and we encourage you to create time for all kids to participate. This TED-Ed video about why buildings fall in earthquakes is a good introduction.

The earthquake shaker can be built with a plastic bin, bungee cords, a small piece of wood, a drill and large file clips - directions included! Students build two houses with coffee stir sticks and clay, test them on the shaker and see which one holds up the best. We spend a week on this project and love every minute!