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CareerStart lessons: Grade seven

LEARN NC was a program of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Education from 1997 – 2013. It provided lesson plans, professional development, and innovative web resources to support teachers, build community, and improve K-12 education in North Carolina. Learn NC is no longer supported by the School of Education – this is a historical archive of their website.

Learning outcomes

Students will gain an understanding of how officials make decisions to prepare for, respond to, and recover from a hurricane.

Teacher preparation

Time required for lesson

One to two class periods (45-55 minutes each). Homework time may be needed for reflective questions.

Materials needed

  • Computer with internet access to access the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale from the National Weather Service website. If you don’t have access to a computer in your classroom, you may print copies of this information and hand it out to students.
  • Student handouts:
    • “Emergency Town Meeting — Job Descriptions”
    • Reflection questions
  • Cardstock (for making nametags)
  • Markers
  • Whiteboard or posterboard
  • Notebook paper


  1. Explain to the class the difference between a hurricane watch and a hurricane warning. (A hurricane watch is issued for coastal areas when there’s a possibility that hurricane conditions could hit the area within 24 to 36 hours. A hurricane warning is a heightened alert that is issued when hurricane conditions threaten to hit the area within 24 hours or less.)
  2. Access the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale on the National Weather Service website and review the scale with the students.
  3. Hand out the “Emergency Town Meeting — Job Descriptions” handout and assign each student a job from the handout. There are 15 jobs available, so you may need to have two students assigned to some jobs, but be sure that each job is covered by at least one student.
  4. Have students arrange their chairs in a circle to simulate a town meeting. Any students who share a job should sit together.
  5. Have each student read his or her job description and responsibilities, and be sure all students understand their roles.
  6. Begin reading the hurricane announcements below, pausing after each one to allow students to discuss their plans. (Optional: You may have the student in the role of the National Weather Service representative read the announcements. Alternatively, you may assign yourself the role of the National Weather Service representative.) Using the barebones information given, let the students discuss a plan of action that involves all 15 jobs present. As the students note the changing situation, they should discuss and prioritize the problems facing their city and the emergency responses to create a status board that indicates the time, the problem, and the actions taken. Use large posterboard or a whiteboard for students to record their plans as they discuss the issues. If students are stuck on one issue, remind them that they cannot take too long on any one issue because people need help right away.

    Hurricane announcements

    • Announcement one: 4:00 pm, August 29. The National Weather Service (NWS) has issued a hurricane watch for your community a few hours ago. The hurricane is at a Category 3 right now and the NWS predicts it will increase in intensity to a Category 4 within hours.
    • Announcement two: 2:00 am, August 30. The NWS reports that the storm is now at a Category 4 and has issued a hurricane warning for your town. The storm is still offshore but will make landfall within 8 hours.
    • Announcement three: 11:00 am, August 30. The storm has made land and it is a Category 4 hurricane.
    • Announcement four: 1:00 pm, August 30. The eye of the storm is over your town. Your town is quiet as it waits for the second half of the storm.
    • Announcement five: 3:00 pm, August 30. The storm has passed. Major roads are flooded and are blocked with fallen trees and other debris. Power and telephone lines are down. The water system is contaminated. Several fires are burning around the town because of broken gas lines and candles. Many people are injured so emergency workers are overwhelmed. Roads are not safe and some buildings and homes are not safe.
  7. When the students have finalized their plans and the danger has passed, hand out the reflection questions and have the students answer them. You may choose to give this as a homework assignment.
  8. You may have the students discuss their responses to the reflection questions the following day in class.


Optional resources for more information on the topics covered in this lesson

Forces of Nature: Hurricanes
After choosing “Hurricanes,” students can view an interactive presentation on why hurricanes form, what they do, and how we watch them. Then, they can create their own hurricane!
SciJinks: Hurricanes and Storms
SciJinks, NASA’s website for middle and high school students about the world of weather, provides interactives on hurricane formation, disaster preparedness, and how to help out after a disaster.
Tropical Twisters
On NASA’s site about hurricanes, students can learn all about the tropical storms and take a virtual tour inside a hurricane to see how the winds within a hurricane interact.
FEMA for Kids
FEMA’s kids website explains everything about hurricanes by providing information, videos, games, and activities.

North Carolina curriculum alignment

Science (2005)

Grade 7

  • Goal 3: The learner will conduct investigations and utilize appropriate technologies and information systems to build an understanding of the atmosphere.
    • Objective 3.05: Examine evidence that atmospheric properties can be studied to predict atmospheric conditions and weather hazards:
      • Humidity.
      • Temperature.
      • Wind speed and direction.
      • Air pressure.
      • Precipitation.
      • Tornados.
      • Hurricanes.
      • Floods.
      • Storms.
    • Objective 3.06: Assess the use of technology in studying atmospheric phenomena and weather hazards:
      • Satellites.
      • Weather maps.
      • Predicting.
      • Recording.
      • Communicating information about conditions.

  • North Carolina Essential Standards
    • Science (2010)
      • Grade 5

        • 5.E.1 Understand weather patterns and phenomena, making connections to the weather in a particular place and time. 5.E.1.1 Compare daily and seasonal changes in weather conditions (including wind speed and direction, precipitation, and temperature) and patterns....
      • Grade 7

        • 7.E.1 Understand how the cycling of matter (water and gases) in and out of the atmosphere relates to Earth’s atmosphere, weather and climate and the effects of the atmosphere on humans. 7.E.1.1 Compare the composition, properties and structure of Earth’s...