Monday, April 13, 2009

Teaching Natural Disasters

From Hurricane Katrina to the recent flooding in Fargo, ND natural disasters are a difficult topic to cover. Because these tragedies are so recent in everyone’s mind, they can affect students in a profound way, particularly when high casualties are involved such as with the recent earthquake in Italy. However, natural disasters also offer a unique opportunity to discuss service learning and community values.

When Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005, it decimated the coast of Mississippi and Louisiana, with the city of New Orleans getting the worst of the damage. The country however, responded with an outpouring of help. Communities held drives to collect food, clothing, and other necessary supplies. Colleges around the country opened their doors to displaced students and donations poured in. The response of students was particularly inspiring. Alternate Spring Break programs began popping up, where students could spend their spring break on the Gulf Coast rebuilding houses and cleaning up debris.

More recently, for two weeks in Fargo, ND instead of attending classes, thousands of students gave countless hours contributing to the round-the-clock sandbagging to help protect the city from potentially devastating flooding. These examples provide a great opportunity to discuss with students the value of service learning and community participation.

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