Teaching About Hurricane Sandy

We offer suggestions to introduce the topic of Hurricane Sandy in the classroom and ideas on ways to teach about it, with links to helpful articles and resources.  

To the Teacher 

Like many teachable moments, Hurricane Sandy provokes strong emotions.  Before you get started we suggest that you review:

Teaching about Controversial or Difficult Issues
5 Tips for Teaching Current Events to Younger Students

See below for some suggestions on ways to open up discussion about Hurricane Sandy, followed by some ideas and resources for more in-depth exploration of the issues Sandy raises.


Ways to get started

In areas where the students are directly affected, you could start of with a Listening Circle:

When upsetting events happen in the world (such as natural disasters), they arouse strong feelings in many of us—sadness, anger, fear, confusion, worry. We tend to carry these feelings around with us through the day, at work or at school.

Young people of all ages, as well as adults, may find a "listening circle" helpful. Listening circles give people a chance to say what they are thinking and feeling and can help engender mutual understanding and support among people in stressful times.
The format is simple. Create a circle consisting of about six people. Each person in the circle has three to five minutes to say whatever is on their minds about events of the day. When one person is speaking, the others in the group pay good attention but don't comment. The circle is over after every person has had a chance to speak. Participation should be completely voluntary, and what people say in the circle should be kept confidential.
In especially difficult times, consider organizing a brief listening circle every day or every week—for young people or adults.


If students are less directly affected, you could begin by creating a web:

To get more information about what students know about  Hurricane Sandy, write "Hurricane Sandy" in the middle of a piece of chart paper and ask students to free associate, sharing any words, thoughts, images that come to mind when they think of Hurricane Sandy. There are no wrong answers. As they share their free associations, chart them, eventually drawing lines from "Hurricane Sandy" in the middle to the students' associations, forming a web.

Encourage students to share words that name feelings they associate with the hurricane. Continue as long as interest remains high. When you come to a stopping place, ask students to pause for a moment and look at the web. Ask, what do you want to say about it? What are your observations, comments, thoughts?

At this point, if students have shared some associations you don't understand or want to know more about, ask the class or the person who shared the association to say more. Your aim is to provide a safe place for students to share their current understandings, so accept what students have to say at this point. After clarifying any of the students' associations that need more explanation, gently correct in a matter-of-fact way any factual misinformation that the web activity has revealed.

Ask the students if, in thinking about Hurricane Sandy, feelings have come up that they would like to share. Listen while students share their feelings.

Then ask if anyone has a question. Is there something they don't understand or would like to know more about? Chart their questions and, where possible, provide answers to relatively simple questions of fact.

For more complicated questions, you might follow up by bringing in newspapers or print-outs from the internet. You might also guide students in using the web to research their questions. Students could work in small groups to get information about particular questions the class is interested in and then report their findings to the class. You could do these activities either in subsequent lessons with the whole class or as special projects for students who are interested.


In addition, you may want to consider a Microlab for Exploring Tough Issues


Ideas for teaching Hurricane Sandy

There are many different approaches to teaching about Hurricane Sandy. In each case, make sure you:

  • Have a safe space for students to share their knowledge, experiences, thoughts, and feelings with an adult (their teacher)
  • Give students the opportunity to ask any questions they may have and get answers that extend their understanding

Possible areas for further exploration:

  • Look at the impact climate change potentially had on this hurricane and past/future large weather-related disasters
  • Look at how the hurricane impacts this election and future elections. Also, the different ways elected officials and candidates are handling it.
  • Learn ways people are trying to help each other after Hurricane Sandy.
  • Use a group process to help students decide how they want to help, and support them in doing this.
  • Give students the message that their classroom is also a place where we help each other


Articles and Resources for teaching about Hurricane Sandy


How people have been affected


Hurricane Sandy and Climate Change