The Topic:
Disaster, Catastrophe & Calamity

Easier - A disaster is an event that causes great damage, loss, or distress. Catastrophes such as earthquakes can happen suddenly and cause massive destruction. Some people think that calamity is just bad luck, while others seek out reasons for their misfortune.
Harder - There are many types of disasters. Natural disasters such as volcanoes and floods can be devastating for entire countries. Catastrophes are difficult to predict and often impossible to prevent. A disaster area often qualifies for emergency government assistance. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) helps people who have suffered loss in a disaster. In the case of accidents such as a plane crash or train derailment, the tragedy can sometimes be blamed on human error. However often a whole series of events may cause the tragedy. People usually look for a cause and try to prevent the problem from happening again. It is hoped that we have learned from environmental and disease catastrophes such as the Chernobyl nuclear power station crisis, the Ebola Virus outbreak, and Exxon Valdez spill. In some cases such as the Branch Davidian stand-off, the Battle of Little Big Horn, and the Heaven's Gate suicides, the calamities are rooted in human psychology and may be even more difficult to prevent.
Disaster Relief sponsored by IBM, Red Cross, and CNN
This site provides information about Worldwide disaster aid.
Federal Emergency Management Agency
FEMA is an independent agency of the federal government whose mission is to help people before, during, and after disasters.
Websection for Kids:
2) FEMA for Kids
Natural Hazard Watch and Warning
This site provides safety rules for tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, flash floods, thunderstorms/lightning, winter storms.
Related Websites:
2) How to Prepare for an Emergency!
3) Safety Rules for Various Weather Hazards
4) Severe Weather Safety Guide
Natural Disasters
This site provides information about natural disasters in the Oceania regions.
Related Websites:
2) Living Almanac of Disasters
3) Natural Disaster Reference Database
4) Natural Disasters and Catastrophes and Some Related Environmental Matters by M. Ferris
After visiting several of the websites, complete one or more of these projects.
Pick Two and Compare, Contrast. Choose two of the events. Then compare and contrast them. Were they caused by humans, a natural occurrence, or both? Recent theory of disasters and mishaps points toward a complex event preceded by layers or a series of conditions. Investigate the occurrence in terms of a sequence of contributing factors. Could the event have been prevented or lessened by human intervention?
Rate the Agency. Learn more about FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency). Are they doing a good job? Why or why not? What changes would you suggest in the way we handle disasters?
Complete a Disaster, Catastrophe or Calamity Webquest. Follow or adapt the procedures that you find at one of these WebQuest sites:
1) Catastrophic Weather Event: The Dust Bowl 1936-1940
2) Discovering World Disasters (Grade 5)
3) George Armstrong Custer: Battle of Little Big Horn (Grades 9-12)
4) Love Canal Debate (Grades 6-12)
5) Natural Disasters by W. Crowley and L. Sherouse (Grade 5)
6) Natural Disasters by E. Hlavaty (Grades 4-5)
7) Natural Disasters Site at Univ. of Michigan
8) Powers of Nature: Natural Disasters by P. Bernard (Grades 4-8)
9) The Cow Didn't Do It by B. DeFelice and C. Heuck
10)San Francisco Earthquake 1906
11)Titanic: What Can Numbers Tell Us About Her Fatal Voyage? by T. Atkins and B. McManus
12)What's the Real Story? A Titanic Webquest (Grade 7-8)
Tell of Your Own Disaster. Disasters can be large or small. They seem to touch everyone. Write a story telling of your most memorable disaster. Or, write a historical fiction story using facts from a real disaster. What would it have been like to be on the Titanic or to live in Chernobyl?
Learn from the Past. Humans can learn from both natural and human-made disasters. Select a disaster and discuss what we learned from the catastrophe. For example, we now celebrate Fire Prevention Week because of the Great Chicago Fire. Invent a special event or list of lessons we learned from the disaster you study.
Help the Cause. Learn more about one of the organizations that helps with disaster relief. What is their mission? How are they funded? Create a poster sharing what people can do to help support this organization.
Stay Healthy. Agent Orange, Ebola Virus, Thalidomide, and Fen-Phen were all at the center of health disasters. Visit the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. What is their role in disaster preparation, investigation, and prevention? Create a timeline of events related to a health catastrophe. Who was impacted by the calamity? Who is responsible? How can this be prevented in the future?
Prediction, Protection, and Prevention. Scientists are learning more and more about predicting, preventing, and protecting against natural disasters. Trace the history of what we've learned about natural disasters such as tornadoes, earthquakes, volcanoes, hurricanes, and floods. What have we learned? What's the next step in predicting, protecting, and/or preventing these disasters?
Websites By Kids for Kids
Chernobyl: A Nuclear Disaster (1996 ThinkQuest Project)
The volcanic-like explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power station on Saturday, April 26, 1986, was probably the world's largest nuclear accident.
Similar ThinkQuest Project:
2) Physics of Chernobyl (2000 ThinkQuest Project)
Committee for the Citizens' Protection from Floods (1999 ThinkQuest Project)
For many years flooding had been the main problem of this land (12 flooding events occurred in the last 60 years), causing high risks even for the people’s safety. The selected approach to the problem was to understand the reason of these events, looking at the type of land management, in order to cope with them for the future, preventing or at least reducing the damaging effects.
Disasters (2000 ThinkQuest Project)
This site covers four types of disasters: oil spills, nuclear disasters, volcanoes and earthquakes.
Disasters: Natural or Manmade (1999 ThinkQuest Junior Project)
This web site tells about natural disasters such as hurricanes, tornadoes, volcanoes and tsunamis. It also explores some well known industrial disasters including Chernobyl, Exxon-Valdez, the Challenger, the Hindenburg, and the Titanic.
International Disasters of the Last Century (1999 ThinkQuest Project)
This webpage is a compilation of some of the worst disasters of the last century: Titanic, Mount Pelee, Hurricane Andrew, Tri-State tornado, Ebola virus outbreaks, and the San Francisco earthquake.
Lost Liners: Earth's Once Great Ships (1998 ThinkQuest Project)
This site explores the history and the causes of each maritime disaster. The wrecks of the Titanic, the Normandie, the Lusitania, the Andrea Doria, and the Empress of Ireland are covered.
Natural Disasters (1997 ThinkQuest Project)
Nine different natural disasters are examined here: bush fires, cyclones, drought, earthquakes, famine, floods, tornadoes, tsunami, and volcanoes.
Similar Webquest Projects:
2) Danger Zone: Natural Disasters (2000 ThinkQuest Junior Project)
3) Disaster Strikes! (1999 ThinkQuest Project)
4) Masters of Disasters (2000 ThinkQuest Junior Project)
5) Natural Disasters (1998 ThinkQuest Junior Project)
6) Natural Disasters (1998 ThinkQuest Project)
7) Natural Disasters (1999 ThinkQuest Junior Project)
8) Natural Disasters (1999 ThinkQuest Junior Project)
9) Natural Disasters (1999 ThinkQuest Project)
10)Natural Disasters: Destructive Forces of Nature (1998 ThinkQuest Project)
11)Natural Disasters, It's a Way of Life (2000 ThinkQuest Junior Project)
12)Natural Disasters - The Terror of our Lives (2000 ThinkQuest Junior Project)
13)Natural Disasters "Without Warning" (2000 ThinkQuest Junior Project)
14)Natural Killers (1999 ThinkQuest Junior Project)
15)Plate Tectonic Natural Disasters! (2000 ThinkQuest Project)
Pollution (1998 ThinkQuest Project)
On the night of March 23, 1989, the oil tanker Exxon Valdez ran into a submerged reef, and spilled eleven million gallons of oil into the waters of Prince William Sound, Alaska.
Prince William Sound: Paradise Lost? (1997 ThinkQuest Project)
Oil has had a major effect on Alaska for many years both before and since the Exxon Valdez disaster in 1989, when 11 million gallons of it spilled into Prince William Sound.
Titanic Was No Disaster...What Happened to Her Was! (1997 ThinkQuest Project)
This site has the story of the shipyard where the boat was built and the personalities behind the ship's birth are delineated from a local viewpoint. Using a chapter-type approach, the web site illuminates hidden facets of the history behind this great disaster.
More Disasters, Catastrophes & Calamities
Agent Orange
This site provides information about the herbicide Agent Orange used in the Vietnam War, and the results of exposure to this herbicide. See also: Vietnam War.
Other Agent Orange Resources:
2) Agent Orange Revisited at the Why Files
3) Agent Orange and Related Issues (Fact Sheet 2000)
4) Air Force Health Study
5) Guide on Agent Orange from Vietnam Veterans of America
Amazing Story of Kudzu
There's so much of this fast-growing vine in the Southeastern U.S., you might think it was a native plant. Actually, it took a lot of hard work to help kudzu spread so widely. Now that it covers over seven million acres of the deep South, there are a lot of people working hard to get rid of it!
Other Kudzu Websites:
2) Chad's Kudzu World
3) Kudzu: The Vine
4) Kudzu Collection
5) Kudzu (Pueraria lobata)
Branch Davidian Waco Siege at University of Louisville
This links-site connects to information sites regarding the tragedy.
Related Websites:
2) Evaluation of the Handling of the Branch Davidian Stand-off in Waco, Texas, Feb. 28 to April 19, 1993 from U.S. Department of Justice
3) Waco Revisited at Dallas Morning News
4) Waco: The Inside Story from PBS Frontline
5) Waco Watch at FindLaw
Challenger Disaster: 10 Years Later
All over the country, the millions watching that awful bloom spread across their television screens realized that something had gone wrong.
More Challenger Websites:
2) Challenger: Our Disaster by Jarett Epstein
3) Challenger Remembered: The Shuttle Challenger's Final Voyage from CBS News
4) Challenger Shuttle at BBC Education
5) Information on STS-51L/Challenger from NASA
Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster
On April 25th -26th, 1986 the World's worst nuclear power accident occurred at Chernobyl in the former USSR (now Ukraine).
Related Websites:
2) Chernobyl - The Accident
3) Chernobyl Initiatives
4) Chernoby Nuclear Reactor Failure
5) Chernobyl: The Disaster and its Legacy by Graham Young
6) Dr. Meshkati's Page on Chernobyl
Donner Party
The Donners' choice of Hastings's Cutoff was a terrible miscalculation. The majority of these unfortunates would spend a starving, frozen winter trapped on the wrong side of the mountains, over six thousand feet above sea level.
More Donner Party Websites:
2) Donner Party
3) Donner Party (Transcript of The American Experience)
4) Donner Party by D.M. Rosen
5) Donner Party: Emigrants Unable to Resist Lure of the American West
6) New Light on the Donner Party by K. Johnson
Ebola Virus Hemorrhagic Fever: General Information
This site has general information about the Ebola virus.
Related Websites:
2) Containment and Control of the Ebola Virus Outbreak in Kikwit, Zaire
3) Ebola Outbreaks - Updates
4) General Information on Ebola Virus Hemorrhagic Fever
5) Global Microbial Threats in the 1990s
6) Reemergence of Ebola Virus in Africa
Great Chicago Fire and The Web of Memory
Learn of the history of the great fire that started around 9 o'clock on Sunday evening, October 8, 1871, somewhere in or very near the O'Leary barn.
Related Websites:
2) 1871 The Great Fire
3) Cause of the Great Chicago Fire! by R.F. Bales
4) Great Chicago Fire
5) Great Chicago Fire 1871
Great 1906 Earthquake And Fire from Museum of the City of San Francisco
This website has extensive information about the 1906 earthquake.
More San Francisco Earthquake Sites:
2) 1906 San Francisco Earthquake and Fire
3) Frequently Asked Questions
4) Great 1906 San Francisco Earthquake
5) San Francisco Earthquake, 1906
6) Story of an Eyewitness by Jack London, Collier's special Correspondent
Hydrogen Exonerated in Hindenburg Disaster by J.C. Bokow
This website discusses evidence that suggests that hydrogen was not to blame for the disaster.
Related Websites:
2) Interview with Mr. Butsher
3) LZ-129 Hindenburg
4) True Story of Hydrogen and the 'Hindenburg' Disaster from the Congressional Record
Invasive Pests
This links-site connects to information sites about the U.S. invasion of the Asian Longhorned Beetle.
Related Website:
2) Gypsy Moth in North America
3) Invasive and Exotic Insects at University of Georgia
4) Invasive Species
5) Invasive Species at BOMIS
6) Invasive Species at eduScapes 42eXplore
Inside Three Mile Island: Minute by Minute
On March 28, 1979, as the sun rose over Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, a series of mechanical, electrical, and human failures led to what has been described as the worst nuclear power plant accident in the history of the United States.
Related Websites:
2) Accident at Three Mile Island from the Uranium Institute
3) Meltdown at Three Mile Island from PBS's The American Experience
4) Nuclear Nightmare in Pennsylvania from the Washington Post
5) Three Mile Island: A Splendid Little Reactor
6) Three Mile Island Event
7) Three Mile Island: 20 Years Later at Living on Earth
Japanese Internment Camps
On February 19, 1942 President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 that forced 120,000 persons of Japanese ancestry into 10 internment camps. About the same time, the Canadian government interned 26,000 Japanese Canadians.
Similar Websites:
2) Children of the Camps: The Documentary
3) Exclusion of the Ethnic Japanese from the US West Coast in 1942
4) Japanese American Internment
5) Japanese Internment Camps: A Personal Account
Johnstown Flood National Memorial
Here you learn the story of the 1889 flood that devastated Pennsylvania.
More Johnstown Flood Sites:
2) History of the Johnstown Flood from Online Book
3) Johnstown Flood
Related Websites:
4) Flood: Dealing with the Deluge at NOVA Online
5) Floods at Newton's Apple
Lakota Noon at the Greasy Grass by G. Michno
When Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer's 7th Cavalry approached the large teepee village on June 25, 1876, it was 'high noon' for the Northern Plains Indians.
Related Websites:
2) Archaeology & History of Custer's Last Battle
3) Custer's Last Stand: Battle of the Little Big Horn
4) Little Big Horn from the New York Times
5) Report on the Battle of Little Big Horn by Major M.A. Reno
Love Canal, U.S.A.
The nickname 'Love Canal' came from the last name of William Love who in 1896 began digging a canal connecting Lake Ontario and Lake Erie (bypassing Niagara Falls) in order to serve as a water power conduit. It was never completed but the Hooker Chemical Company, located west of the canal, had the ingenious idea of turning the uncompleted canal into a dumping ground for the chemical byproducts of its manufacturing process.
Related Websites:
2) Love Canal
3) Guide to Love Canal Collection: Documents Online at State Univ. of New York, Buffalo
4) History of the Love Canal
Mount St. Helens
Here you can learn about the people and events before, during, and after the eruption.
Other Mount St. Helens Sites:
2) Eruption of Mount Saint Helen: Blowing Your Top
3) Forest Learning Center at Mount St. Helens (Weyerhaeuser)
4) Mount St. Helens, A General Slide Set
5) Mount. St. Helens Archive at Tidepool
6) Mount St. Helens, Washington at USGS/Cascades Volcano Observatory, Vancouver, Washington
7) Remembering Mount St. Helens at ABC News
8) Which After Effect of the 1980 Mount St. Helens Eruption had the Greatest Impact on River Drainage?
Paradoxes of Heaven's Gate by D.R. Forsyth, Virginia Commonwealth University
Here you find a social psychological analysis of the Heaven's Gate incident.
More Information on Heaven's Gate:
2) Cult's Two-Decade Odyssey of Regimentation by F. Bruni from New York Times
3) One Year Later, Heaven's Gate Suicide Leaves Only Faint Trail
4) On the Furthest Fringes of Millennialism by G. Niebuhr from New York Times
Preliminary Report: Hurricane Andrew, 16-18 August, 1992 by E. Rappaport from National Hurricane Center
Andrew was a small and ferocious Cape Verde hurricane that wrought unprecedented economic devastation along a path through the northwestern Bahamas, the southern Florida peninsula, and south-central Louisiana.
More Hurricane Andrew Sites:
2) Hurricane Andrew
3) Hurricane Andrew, August 16-27, 1992 at Suite 101
4) Hurricane Andrew by M. Mayfield, L. Avila, & E.N. Rappaport, Monthly Weather Review article
Response to the Exxon Valdez Spill from Office of Response and Restoration, National Ocean Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Within hours after the tanker Exxon Valdez spilled nearly 11 million gallons of crude oil into Alaska's Prince William Sound on March 24, 1989, a team of scientists arrived on-scene to begin containment and cleanup.
Other Related Websites:
2) Exxon Valdez Office of Oil Spill Damage Assessment and Restoration
3) Exxon Valdez Oil Spill: America's Largest Spill
4) Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Restoration
5) Prince William Sound: Paradise Lost? The Exxon Valdez Oil Spill (1998 ThinkQuest Project)
Surviving the Dust Bowl from PBS's American Experience
A catastrophic eight-year drought in the Southern Plains states led observers to rename the region 'The Dust Bowl.'
Other Dust Bowl Sites:
2) 1930's Dust Bowl (Excerpts from 'The Dust Bowl, Men, Dirt and Depression' by Paul Bonnifield)
3) Dust Bowl at Between the Wars
4) Voices from the Dust Bowl from PBS's American Memories
Thalidomide at Inc.,5716,73784+1+71913,00.html
This site explains about a medical compound that was initially used as a sedative and an antiemetic until the discovery that it caused severe fetal malformations.
Related Websites:
2) Right Lesson To Learn From Thalidomide by S.B. Harris
3) Second Thoughts About Thalidomide by C. Blaney
4) Thalidomide: Important Patient Information
5) Thalidomide Victims Association of Canada (TVAC)
Tiananmen Square Massacre
In April of 1989, over a million students, doctors, professors, laborers from factories, and writers gathered to demonstrate for democracy in Beijing, China(Sizer 208). The location of this assembly was Tiananmen Square.
Other Websites:
2) Textbook Turmoil at Tiananmen Square
3) Tiananmen Square Massacre (Links-site)
4) Tiananmen Square Massacre
This site houses a process for a mock trial based on actual events from the Titanic disaster.
Other Titanic Websites:
2) Encyclopedia Titanica
3) Molly Brown: (a) Molly Brown House Museum, (b) Margaret "Molly" Brown, (c) The Unsinkable Molly Brown
4) Titanic at the Smithsonian
5) Titanic: The Search for Answers
Triangle Shirtwaist Fire by P. Rosa
The date was March 25, 1911. At 4:45 p.m. the bell rang signaling that the workday was done. As the girls were gathering their belongings and putting on their coats someone yelled "Fire!"
Similar Websites:
2) Leap for Life, Leap of Death
3) Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire at
4) Triangle Shirtwaist Fire Part I
5) Triangle Shirtwaist Fire Part II
Two Diet Drugs Pulled from Market
Doctors at Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn., and MeritCare, Fargo, N.D., first identified heart valve problems associated with use of the fen-phen.
More Information:
2) Doctors: 'Fen-phen' Diet Drug Not a Cause for Public Health Panic
3) Fen-Phen Information from the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (FDA)
4) Heart Valve Disease and Fen-phen
Witchcraft in Salem Village
This site introduces the infamous of 1692, and is designed to provide accurate general information about these events, as well as information on other aspects of the history of Danvers (formerly Salem Village), Massachusetts.
Other Salem Witch Trial Sites:
2) Salem Witch Museum
3) Salem Witch Trials
4) Salem Witchcraft Trials 1692 (Famous American Trials )
Zebra Mussel Information from the National Zebra Mussel Information Network
This website provides information for the management and control of the zebra mussel (Dreissena polymorpha).
More Zebra Mussel Websites:
2) Exotic Zebra Mussel by A.J. Benson
3) Life History and Ecological Requirements of the Zebra Mussel - North American Experience Through 1992
4) Zebra Mussel Page
5) Zebra Mussel: Dreissena polymorpha
6) Invasive Species at eduScapes 42eXplore
Websites For Teachers
After the Deluge (Grades 6 to 12)
In this lesson, students examine why floods occur and the techniques that can be used to stall or prevent them from happening. Students investigate, in small groups, different flood prevention techniques (levees, dams, reservoirs, and floodways) and create models based on their research that demonstrate how their techniques work.
Exxon Valdez Disaster (Grades 3-6) by P. Chandler
A part of a unit on the environment, this plan focuses on the damage and cleanup of the oil spill.
Great Chicago Fire Web Site Rich in Language Arts from Education World
This lesson planning article explores the historic fire in ways that engender rich language arts activities.
Invasion of an Exotic Species: Stop the Zebra Mussel! (Grades 8 - 12) by V. Clark & T. Miller
The activities and resources presented in this lesson guides students in a study of the zebra mussel and the possibilities of its invasion of Virginia.
Japanese American Internment: American Concentration Camp or Reasonable Response to National Security? (Grades 9-12)
This lesson asks students to evaluate the U.S. government action in the case of the Japanese-American internment and decide whether the government acted properly within its constitutionally defined powers.
National Tragedy, Global Response (Grades 6-12)
In this lesson, students explore how different people on local, national and international levels respond to a destructive natural disaster and the needs of its victims and how various facets of the media cover such an event, focusing specifically on the earthquake that devastated Turkey on August 17, 1999.
Titanic Disasters (Grades 6-12)
In this lesson plan, students contemplate the worst man-made disasters in history, focusing on the Titanic.
Toxic Waste in Grand Banks (Grades 10-12)
This lesson is an assessment task in which students investigate the issues of economic prosperity, environmental concerns, government intervention in the market economy and responsible civic participation in solving community problems.
Children of the Dust Bowl: The True Story of the School at Weedpatch Camp (Grades 4-8) by J. Stanley
This lesson covers the causes of the Dust Bowl, the subsequent migration of the Okies to California, their experiences after they arrived, and the development of the school at Weedpatch Camp.
global warming
invasive species
Great Depression
self reliance
emergency kit
Created by Annette Lamb and Larry Johnson 1/99, Updated 10/00