When a natural disaster hits a community, such as the six inches of rain that flooded Sussex, it is suddenly brought home to children how vulnerable we all are in the face of nature. But what can we do?
What causes flooding (heavy rain, ice melting, extreme tides, separately or in combination)? Where and when have big floods occurred (Noah's ark in the Bible, probably based on real events several thousand years bc; spring floods on the Nile; the devastation of the River Yangtse changing its course; the volcanic explosions in the Krakatoa islands in 1883 created tidal waves (tsunamis) up to 120 feet high that killed thousands in Java and Sumatra)? Find on a map the places where the recent Sussex floods occurred (Lewes, Uckfield, River Ouse). What can we do to prevent floods (build dams - for instance, Aswan High Dam on the Nile), reservoirs, defensive walls, barriers and overflows in places where there is regular flooding)? If your house is flooded your electricity will not work, so what are the consequences (no lights, heating, refrigeration, television, cooking facilities)?
What other civil disasters can you think of (earthquakes, gas main explosions, the events of war, or armed conflict, air, train, car or bus crashes, illness epidemics, such as flu, gastric infections, Aids)? Who are the key people in an emergency (police, medical services, local authority employees, drivers, army, volunteers, media)? What else may be needed (food, clothing, temporary accommodation, beds, warmth, emotional support, advice, insurance assessors)? How does insurane work (you pay a regular premium to cover possible damage, replacement, etc, based on an assessment by the insurers of the risk involved)?
Imagine the area near your school is suddenly flooded. Split the class into several task forces. Their job is to get people home (boats, wellies, where do they come from?); re-house some (where? church hall? school? cinema? billet on others?); feed stranded families (on what?); provide warmth and clothing (how?). Make a video or tape of role plays showing people in action and interviews with key players. What have children learned from their simulation and could they help in a real catastrophe?
Write the story of how you volunteered to help during a disaster.
Ted Wragg is professor of education at the University of Exeter.
Floods are partly caused by global warming, should we use less petrol?
Cars are overused by lazy people. We should walk, cycle, take public transport. Oil will eventually run out, so it should be saved, not burned. There is a quarter more carbon dioxide in the hydrosphere than in the 18th century, producing acid rain and melting ice caps. Plants die, sea levels rise, more disasters.
The global warming argument is exaggerated, as the earth's atmosphere is vast compared with vapour from car emissions.
Fossil fuel burning is only one contributor to global warming, what about deforestation, coal, wood, gas burning? Public transport is often inadequate in rural and many urban areas. A car offers freedom to families.