Disaster in Japan

I’ve had lots of non-science friends ask me clarifying questions about what they have been hearing and seeing through the media – too bad for them I wasn’t an earth science teacher! I thought I would share some blog posts that have been helpful for me in trying to understand the what, why, and repercussions of the earthquake as well as a couple of posts from the New York Times that include lessons and activities.

You can also do a search in the Middle School Portal 2 Digital Library – you’ll get back resources that right on track for middle school science students.

Please share additional information and resources that have been helpful to you and your students in the comment section.


Japan Struggles to Control Quake-Damaged Nuke Plant – from Wired Science

Fukushima Nuclear Reactor Explained – video from CNN

Japan Quake May Have Shortened Earth Days, Moved Axis – from NASA

Recent Earthquake Teachable Moments: Animations from IRIS – includes video

The Japan Earthquake and Tsunami – from NSTA – includes lessons and activities

Teaching Ideas: The Earthquake and Tsunami in Japan – from New York Times Learning Network

20 Ways to Teach About the Disaster Across the Curriculum – from New York Times Learning Network

Building Quake-Resistant Structures in the Classroom –  from Middle School Portal 2 blog


The National Science Education Standards (NSES) tell us that students in grades 5-8 should “begin to see the connections among . . . [energy forms] and to become familiar with the idea that energy is an important property of substances and that most change involves energy transfer.” Yet there is no explicit direction to introduce students to waves in the context of energy. But what better way to help students connect the mechanical energy of visible ocean waves to the “work” they can do in moving objects all the while transferring energy from kinetic to potential and back? Resources provided here will help you help your students begin to conceptualize waves and their relationship to energy.

Waves and Wave Motion: Describing Waves
This module introduces the history of wave theories, basic descriptions of waves and wave motion, and the concepts of wave speed and frequency.

Seismic Waves
How can P and S waves predict the inner structure of the Earth? Students activate four seismographs that send out P and S waves and watch as the waves are reflected and refracted while moving through the Earth and are asked a series of questions about the waves and interior of the Earth. From the results and provided information, students see how the movement of P and S waves predicts structure within the Earth.

This site, created by and for 5th grade science students and educators, explores, illustrates, and explains the science of sound and music, including compression waves.

Waves, Sound and Light
These online applets or “gizmos” cover prisms, refraction, and ray tracings with lenses and mirrors. Each gizmo allows users to manipulate variables such as wave length or angle of reflection and each is accompanied by an illustrated, printable guide. The Explore Learning site requires a subscription but does offer a 30-day free trial and five minutes of free access each month for each of the applets.

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We want and need your ideas, suggestions, and observations. What would you like to know more about? What questions have your students asked? We invite you to share with us and other readers by posting your comments. Please check back often for our newest posts or download the RSS feed for this blog. Let us know what you think and tell us how we can serve you better. We appreciate your feedback on all of our Middle School Portal 2 publications. You can also email us at msp@msteacher.org. Post updated 10/16/2011.