Home School Years

Proverbs 22:6 – Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old, he will not depart from it.

Forces of Nature

Related Posts:

Storms brewing

A storm is brewing

Mountains, Islands & Volcanoes

Atlantic and Pacific regions

Regions of the United States

Weather Series

Fear & Anxiety

Lesson Ideas:

  • Offer a brief overview of each natural disaster
  • Discuss safety tips and preparedness plans
  • Discuss emotions associated with natural disasters: fear, sadness, anxiety, grief, bravery, courage, determination, etc.
  • Discuss things associated with humanitarian efforts to explore a sense of community during times of need: donations, compassion, cooperation, survival, kindness, medical supplies, food, shelter, displacement, loss, etc.


A tornado (also known as a twister) is a very powerful and violent tunnel of air extending from a thunderstorm down to the ground. When the tunnel of air begins to extend from the thunderstorm downward but has not yet touched the ground, it is referred to as a funnel cloud. A tornado needs two things to form: warm, moist air combining with cool, dry air. The warm, moist air generally comes from the Gulf of Mexico; the cool, dry air generally comes from Canada. An area of land stretching across 10 states in the central United States region is commonly referred to as Tornado Alley because of the high occurrences of tornadoes there each year. The area includes Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, Iowa, Missouri, Arkansas and Louisiana. A scale measuring wind speeds (EF-Scale) is used by meteorologists to determine the strength and potential damage resulting from a tornado. A meteorologist is a person who studies Earth’s atmosphere, which includes weather and storm related issues. The tornado scale is as follows:

  • EF0: 65-85 mph (light damage)
  • EF1: 86-110 mph (moderate damage)
  • EF2: 111-135 mph (considerable damage)
  • EF3: 136-165 mph (severe damage)
  • EF4: 166-200 mph (devastating damage)
  • EF5: over 200 mph (catastrophic damage)

Most tornadoes happen in April, May and June, but they can happen any time when the conditions are present. The largest recorded tornado outbreak occurred April 25-28, 2011 when 358 tornadoes were produced in 21 states. A tornado watch is when the potential for a tornado is present; they are possible in your area. It is important to make preparations in case a tornado does occur. A tornado warning is when a tornado has been detected by radar or is already visible on the ground. A tornado warning will prompt a siren or warning from the National Weather Service. Discuss safety tips.

Recommended Books:

  • Tornadoes! by Gail Gibbons
  • Barn Storm by Charles Ghigna (Step Into Reading)
  • Twister On Tuesday (Magic Tree House series) by Mary Pope Osborne
  • Twisters And Other Terrible Storms (Magic Tree House Research Guide) by Mary Pope Osborne and Will Osborne

Experiment: make a tornado in a bottle


A hurricane is a huge rotating tropical storm that forms in the Atlantic or eastern Pacific Ocean with winds of at least 74 mph. When it forms in the northern Indian Ocean, it is called a cyclone. When it forms in the western Pacific Ocean, it is called a typhoon. Hurricanes generally last over a week, and gain speed and strength while in the open water. They are very destructive to coastal areas. Three things cause a hurricane to form: warm ocean water, wind and a pre-existing thunderstorm. Hurricanes rotate in a counter-clockwise direction in the northern hemisphere and in a clockwise direction in the southern hemisphere. Its center is referred to as the eye of the storm. The eye is the calmest part of the storm, but the more visible the eye, the stronger the storm. Before a tropical storm becomes a hurricane, it goes through stages: 1) Tropical Wave, 2) Tropical Disturbance, 3) Tropical Cyclone, 4) Tropical Depression, 5) Tropical Storm, and 6) Hurricane. Similar to tornadoes, hurricanes are measured by a wind speed scale to determine strength and potential damage:

  • Category 1: 74-95 mph (minimal damage)
  • Category 2: 96-110 mph (moderate damage)
  • Category 3: 111-130 mph (extensive damage)
  • Category 4: 131-155 mph (extreme damage)
  • Category 5: over 155 mph (catastrophic damage)

A tropical storm watch means tropical storm conditions are possible in your area within 36 hours. A tropical storm warning means tropical storm conditions are expected in your area within 24 hours. A hurricane watch means hurricane conditions are possible in your area within 36 hours. That means you should begin making preparations; in some cases, that means evacuations will take place. A hurricane warning means hurricane conditions are expected in your area within 24 hours. Every year, an alphabetical list of names is used to name hurricanes; it includes masculine and feminine names. The list is rotated every six years and a name is retired if the storm reaches the highest category, such as 1992’s Hurricane Andrew and 2005’s Hurricane Katrina. Discuss safety tips.

Recommended Books:

  • Hurricanes! by Gail Gibbons
  • Calvin Can’t Fly: The Story of a Bookworm Birdie by Jennifer Berne

Activity: make your own alphabetical list of hurricane names


Earthquakes occur when tectonic plates (large pieces of the Earth’s crust) shift or break. This happens as the Earth releases stress naturally. Most earthquakes are not noticeable above ground because they are too weak. But when they are strong enough to be felt/noticed, we generally feel the ground shaking or strong, sudden jolts of the ground, and things moving and falling all around. When they are very strong, they can even topple buildings and bridges, and cause widespread, serious damage. Earthquakes usually last less than a minute but numerous aftershocks can occur. The point on the Earth’s surface that is directly above the source of the earthquake is called the epicenter. Earthquakes travel through seismic waves (energy waves) so depending on the strength of the quake, the waves or shocks can be felt far from the epicenter. Most earthquakes occur in the cracks or fractures of the Earth’s crust. These are called faults. A fault line is the area that follows a fracture and where earthquakes are active. The most active zone in the United States is along the Pacific coastline states, as well as Alaska and Hawaii. Earthquake intensity is measured with a number point magnitude scale known as the Richter Scale:

  • 4.0-4.9: minor earthquake
  • 5.0-5.9: moderate earthquake
  • 6.0-6.9: strong earthquake
  • 7.0-7.9: major earthquake
  • 8.0-8.9: great earthquake

Earthquakes can trigger other geological phenomena, such as tsunamis, landslides, and holes or breaks in the ground. In December 2004 a massive 9.2 earthquake occurred in the Indian Ocean which caused devastating tsunamis killing over 230,000 in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India and Thailand. In January 2010, Haiti was hit by a 7.0 magnitude earthquake with an epicenter in the town Léogâne. Fifty-two aftershocks were recorded. It affected an estimated three million people. Most recently, in March 2011, Japan was struck by a 8.9 magnitude earthquake which set off a series of tsunamis killing over 15,000 residents across 20 municipalities. Click here to see the latest track of significant earthquakes around the world. A seismologist is a scientist who studies earthquakes. Discuss safety tips.

Recommended Books:

  • Earthquack! by Margie Palatini
  • Jump Into Science: Earthquakes by Ellen J. Prager
  • Earthquakes by Franklyn M. Branley (Let’s Read and Find Out Science)
  • Earthquake In The Early Morning (Magic Tree House series) by Mary Pope Osborne
  • Tsunamis And Other Natural Disasters (Magic Tree House Research Guide) by Mary Pope Osborne and Will Osborne

Experiment: simulate an earthquake

Volcanic Eruption:

A volcano is an opening of the Earth’s crust. Almost 90% of all volcanoes are located in an area circling the edges of the Pacific Ocean known as The Ring of Fire. A volcano forms when the tectonic plates move into the Earth’s crust forcing Earth’s layers upward. When a volcano erupts, it causes an explosion of magma and volcanic ash. Magma is a mixture of super hot, melted rock and other solids inside a volcano. Once outside the volcano, it is referred to as lava. Volcanic ash is a combination of pulverized rock, glass and minerals. The amount of dissolved gases in the magma determines if an eruption is going to be explosive or not; a higher amount of gases will result in an explosive eruption (like when you shake a soda bottle and open it all the gases force an explosion). Mount St. Helen’s is an explosive volcano. Hawaii’s Kilauea is an effusive or non-explosive volcano.

One of history’s well documented destruction from an explosive volcanic eruption is the City of Pompeii near modern-day Naples, Italy. It was partially buried by 13 to 20 feet of volcanic ash from the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D. Its remains were discovered in 1599 featuring a large number of well-preserved artifacts/remnants which have given much insight to what life was like in that city. Sadly, the preservation came as a result of walls of ash and stone instantly engulfing everything it touched leaving people, animals and ordinary objects such as pottery preserved in their last state. A volcanologist is a person who studies volcanoes. Discuss safety tips.

Recommended Books:

  • Jump Into Science: Volcano! by Ellen J. Prager
  • Volcanoes by Franklyn M. Branley (Let’s Read and Find Out Science)

Experiment: make a soda bottle volcano


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