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TeachNet Grant: Preparing for Disaster
Meryl Meisler

Institute for Collaborative Education (I.C.E.)
345 East 15th Street
New York, NY 10001

Grades 6-8, Science, Foreign Language, ELA, Art, Health, and Current Events

About the Grant:


  • Internet connection
  • Movie editing software (E.g. Premiere, imovie, Final Cut)
  • Still and/or video camera (or I-site on computer)
  • Animation software (E.g. Flash)- optional
  • Storyboard form

Description of Your Project:
The human spirit is unconquerable! Inspired by a true Miracle On The Hudson," students teach their peers how to prevent and cope with disasters.

How it Works:
Students go online to learn about preparing for and surviving natural disasters. They view primary video/photo sources, and interviews with survivors about the 01/16/09 Miracle On The Hudson" in New York City. Many lives were saved when Flight 1549 landed safely on the Hudson River because professionals were well-trained to prevent and deal with disasters.

Final Project/Product:
Inspired by a study of the preparation for the survival of natural or man-made disasters, students create short films, animations and PSAs (public service announcements) that may prepare other for disasters they could face in their lifetime.

How This Grant was Adapted:

Overall Value:
Students learn about The Miracle of The Hudson", a plane with 155 people headed for a crash, yet miraculously" landed safely on the Hudson River. The miracle" was made possible because the pilot, crew, ferry and rescue boats were continuously trained to prepare for disaster. Students learn to prepare for disaster themselves, as well as teach other young people how to prepare (and survive from) for disasters that they might face in their lifetime.

Tips for the Teacher:
Learning to prepare for, cope with and ultimately overcome challenges are important life skills Preparing For Disaster" empowers students to conquer their fears, realize that there is power in knowledge and that the human spirit is resilient. For some youth, a disaster might be a pimple or forgetting their keys. For others, it might be a life or death experience. Let them choose their topics and they will work with joy on their projects, and learn multiple life and technical skills at the same time.

You can incorporate Foreign Language skills by asking the students to write or produce Foreign Language voiceovers of parts of their projects. At our school, the 6th graders were required to use at least 5 lines of written or spoken Spanish in their projects.

If you make it a requirement to add scientific data, graphs or statistics from the students' research, you can incorporate Science and Math content.


Project URL

Silent Demon (Eating Disorders)



The Truth About Marijuana



Drunk Driving



Child Labor




Objective 1: Students will learn about a 21st Century miracle" where more than 150 lives were saved by being prepared.

Objective 2: Students will identify disasters a young person might face in their lifetime.

Objective 3: Students will connect Earth Science studies to daily life.

Objective 4: Students will work collaboratively.

Objective 5: Students will use storyboards and scripts to pre-plan a short film, animation or PSA.

Objective 6: Students will incorporate scientific knowledge or data in their projects.

Objective 7: Students will incorporate foreign language in their projects.

Objective 8: Students will learn imaging, editing, and animation

Objective 9: Students will prepare and produce short films and PSAs


Websites Used

Link 1: http://fema.gov/kids/index.htm

FEMA for KIDS Homepage: Education, Schools, Disasters, Games...

A resource for kids to learn about disaster preparedness. Includes information for teachers and students.


Link 2: www.ready.gov/kids/home.html

Be Prepared In Every Situation" for kids from the Department of Homeland Security. Includes: Create a Kit, Make a Plan, and Know the Facts, fun & games


Link 3: http://theepicenter.com/howto.html

How to prepare for an emergency


Link 4: http://nbcnewyork.com/news/local/Miracle-on-the-Hudson.html


Description: NBC New York News Miracle on the Hudson

Passengers and eyewitnesses describe a most remarkable landing"


Link 5: http://msnbc.msn.com/id/28699333/


Description: MSNBC Dateline Video Miracle on the Hudson: What went right"


Link 6: http://nytimes.com/2009/01/16/nyregion/16pilot.html

Description: New York Times article- Crew's Quick Reaction Led to Plane's Safe Landing in Hudson...


Link 7: http://nytimes.com/2009/01/16/nyregion/16rescue.html?ref=nyregion


Description: New York Times article and slide show

A Quick Rescue Kept Death Toll at Zero"


Link 8: http://nytimes.com/interactive/2009/01/15/nyregion/20090115-plane-crash-970.html


Description: New York Times Interactive Tracking US Airways Flight 1549"


Link 9: http://nytimes.com/2009/01/17/nyregion/17about.html


Description: New York Times article "Old Hands on the River Didn't Have to Be Told What to Do"


Link 10: http://karenjlloyd.com/blog/free-storyboard-template-downloads/




Standards Addressed:

Standard 1: Language for Information and Understanding

Grade: Intermediate school

Subject: English Language Arts

Students will listen, speak, read, and write for information and understanding. As listeners and readers, students will collect data, facts, and ideas; discover relationships, concepts, and generalizations; and use knowledge generated from oral, written, and electronically produced texts.


Standard 2: Language for Social Interaction

Grade: Intermediate school

Subject: English Language Arts

Students will listen, speak, read, and write for social interaction. Students will use oral and written language that follows the accepted conventions of the English language for effective social communication with a wide variety of people


Standard 3: A Safe and Healthy Environment

Grade: Intermediate school

Subject: Health

Students will acquire the knowledge and ability necessary to create and maintain a safe and healthy environment.

Standard 4: Communication Skills

Grade: Intermediate school

Standard 5:

Grade: Intermediate school

Subject: Languages Other Than English

Students will be able to use a language other than English for communication.


Standard 6: Information Systems

Grade: Intermediate school

Subject: Science and Technology

Students will access, generate, process, and transfer information using appropriate technologies.


Standard 7: Interdisciplinary Problem Solving

Grade: Intermediate school

Subject: Mathematics, Science and Technology

Students will apply the knowledge and thinking skills of mathematics, science, and technology to address real-life problems and make informed decisions.


Standard 8: Interconnectedness: Common Themes

Grade: Intermediate school

Subject: Mathematics, Science and Technology

Students will understand the relationships and common themes that connect mathematics, science, and technology and apply the themes to these and other areas of learning.

Standard 9: Knowing and Using Arts Materials and Resources

Grade: Intermediate school

Subject: Art

Students will be knowledgeable about and make use of the materials and resources available for participation in the arts in various roles.


Standard 10: Creating, Performing, and Participating in the Arts

Grade: Intermediate School

Subject: Art

Students will actively engage in the processes that constitute creation and performance in the arts and participate in various roles in the arts.

Student Work Photos and Documents pertaining to your project - You will have the opportunity to attach images and documents with login information that you will be provided with.


Lesson 1:

Was there a miracle?

Objective 1: Students will learn about a 21st Century miracle" where more than 150 lives were saved by being prepared.

Students learn about The Miracle of The Hudson", a plane with 155 people headed for a crash, yet miraculously" landed safely on the Hudson River. Students view and discuss raw coast guard videos of the rescue in the Hudson, online news reports and interviews with survivors and witnesses of Flight 1549. The class discusses the similarities and differences between the raw footage and news stories (including eyewitness, maps, audio, titles, Twitter feeds--all documented online). The teacher elicits from the students that the miracle" was made possible because the pilot, crew, ferry and rescue boats were continuously trained to prepare for disaster.


Lesson 2:

Brainstorm Disasters

The class has a brainstorm session about what possible disasters a young person might face in their lifetime. The teacher explains that the disaster could be large or small, but at the time it could feel like a disaster (such as forgetting your locker combination or getting a pimple the day school pictures are being taken). The class discusses a typical disaster and ways one could prepare for them (such as writing your combination in a secret place or carrying complexion cover-up cream with you).

Each student is asked to write down some possible disasters a young person might face in their lifetime, big or small. The teacher asks each student to share their disasters aloud, while a student volunteer writes the list on the board/display device.

Homework: Each student is asked to choose one topic from the class brainstorm list that they think would be most interesting or important to do a short  (3 minutes or less) collaborative video, animation or PSA about, in order to help other young people prepare for such a disaster. Each student is instructed to write a short pitch" to convince other classmates that this is a great topic to research and then produce into a short film.

Lesson 3:

Choose your Disaster

Each student takes a turn presenting the pitch" about the topic they thought was most important or interesting. As each student speaks, a student volunteer writes the selected topics on the board. After all the students give their pitch, the teacher instructs them to write on a piece of paper their #1 and #2 choice for a topic they would like to work on in a small team and to indicate if they would be interested being a team leader.

The papers are collected, and collated. Teams of 3-4 students are created, with the intention of each person being given their 1st or 2nd choice.

The team members are asked to sit together and discuss what jobs need to be done and who will be responsible. The jobs include: storyboarding, research scripting, graphics, animation, casting, acting, filming, recording, sound and music design, editing.

If using an online collaboration method like a wiki or Google Docs, students should exchange account information and/or access to the shared site.


Lesson 4

Disaster Production

The teams must create a storyboard and script before they are given any equipment to work with. Teams take turns with the equipment (e.g. video camera, tripod, audio recorder) while others rehearse. After each team records and video and/or audio they download and/or digitize their capture (using imovie, premier or other program). Teams edit their work.

Rough Cut Viewing

Each team takes a turn to present their rough cut" of their project thus far. The classmates give each other warm and cool feedback about what works and what would help make each project more successful.


Lesson 5:

Final Revisions

Teams do final edits of their productions. Each finished project must include a title, credits, original images and sound, a disaster" and suggestions for preparing for the disaster. For extra credit, the students included at least 5 lines of Spanish.


Lesson 6:

Film Festival

Share each teams' finished projects with their classmates. At I.C.E., 4 different 6th grade classes completed the project. Each class saw every finished piece. The students received secret ballots to vote for their favorite 3 films. The top 3 winners were screened before our entire school community in our weekly Town Meeting in the auditorium.


Meryl Meisler is an artist/educator. She has taught traditional and digital art in the NYC Public School System since 1979. Meryl proudly serves as a teacher representative on the Board of Trustees of The Teachers Network. She has won numerous grants and awards for her teaching and personal artwork.



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