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A weblog designed to share Geography resources with students and colleagues

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Christchurch- a lesson perspective

Categories:s1 and s2, Environmental hazards

This is a post I wrote on the phone on Wednesday. For one reason or another, I couldn't publish it till now, but I thought it was worth sharing due to the current nature of events.

I've blogged previously about how its an easy thing to either cover natural disasters or ignore them for the wrong reasons. Yesterday, I was travelling to work and heard about the Christchurch Earthquake on the radio. I felt this was worth abandoning the planned lessons for, while at the same time hoping to balance the geography with the empathy .
We started the period with four discussion starters. It's important to stress at this point that this was breaking news and few of the students were aware of the events. First of all, we considered whether there was any correlation between when earthquakes occur and the damage they do. Both classes had some excellent reasoning here. I gradually revealed the Christchurch time only after the classes had identified this time of day as one of the worst possible.
Secondly, we considered whether it was really possible to prepare for earthquakes. We started this from an individual perspective, considering earthquake survival necessities (some great class inputs), while at the same time throwing in a simulated earthquake drill. However, we also looked at the wider problems such as the uncertainty of seismic gaps, discussion of aftershocks and the way that the built environment was constructed to cope depending on a country's wealth.
This led perfectly on to both the response to disasters (personal, community and authority responses) and the short & long term priorities in the wake of an earthquake. I showed the class the New Zealand news bulletin where the Prime Minister of the country was being interviewed, which I thought was a great leveller, to see this leader of men at times at a loss for what to say. Even more powerful was the second clip, six minutes of unedited news footage with no audio. The atmosphere in the clip is surreal, often hushed into an eerie silence despite the volume of people in the shot. There is a real sense of shock, a city stunned and some bizarre attempts at ignoring the mayhem (the man in full running gear out for a jog while everyone else is preoccupied with events springs to mind), as well as good illustrations of the panic, fear and devastation as buildings collapse in front of the onlookers eyes. I think the fact this was almost 'live' had quite an impact in interest and learning.

Finally, to place ourselves in the same situation, we adapted Tony Cassidy's Introduction to Earthquakes to look at the earthquake through the eyes of a Christchurch resident (being continued today). I hope this sparks enough interest for the class to want to find out something about this for themselves, as there has been blanket coverage today. That would be the ideal lesson outcome, encouraging students to engage with the real world events which too often slip quietly by.


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