Surviving Storm Surge View larger

Surviving Storm Surge

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Children play the role of engineers as they build a model scene of a paper house on a play dough "coast" and inundate it with flood water to see if the house they made can withstand the rising tide.

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  • Participants Enjoyed the Activity 
    Participants Learned from This Activity 
    Activity Instructions Were Clear and Easy to Follow 
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Related Programming Resources

Related Links Animations of hurricane damage to a structure at different levels of intensity
The National Severe Storms Laboratory,"Severe Weather 101"
Originating Source Dream Big
Related Books
[Suggest a book]
Earthquake!: The 1906 San Francisco Nightmare by Lynn Brunelle
A Project Guide to Earthquakes by Claire O'Neal
What Protects Us During Natural Disasters? by Lisa Owings
Can We Protect People From Natural Disasters? by Catherine Chambers
Earthquake Games by Matthys Levy and Mario Salvadori
Hurricanes by Gail Gibbons
Avalanche and Landslie Alert! by Vanessa Walker

Reviews

Rating 
Participants Enjoyed the Activity 
Participants Learned from This Activity 
Activity Instructions Were Clear and Easy to Follow 
Would Recommend 
12/19/2017

Great for a Large Age Range

I used this activity with kids in grades K through 6 and it worked surprisingly well for such a large age range. The parents were on hand to help.

We used a slightly larger bin than recommended, and we placed the bin in an empty wading pool to help protect the carpeting. We used a 2-gallon pitcher to hold the water for dumping and we were able to reuse the same water over and over by emptying the bin back into the pitcher from the safety of the wading pool. The water got a little gross from the playdough, which was dyed green, but that made the destruction more fun.

I made a double batch of homemade playdough for the land. The students were supplied with a copy of the page “Building a Flood Safe Home” from the PDF, a copy of the beach house template printed on cardstock, craft sticks, toothpicks, glue, masking tape, Scotch tape, duct tape, scissors, and markers. The only cost was the ingredients for the playdough (around $5.00); everything else was found around the library.

The “Earthquake Engineering” video listed on the back page of the activity PDF is a great resource to use as an introduction. We also did the activity Edible Destruction at this event, and the video gave some good background information for both design projects.

We had one child who was very excited to create the storm surge and test his house, so he spent minimal time designing. This actually worked out well for the other students because when we dumped the water on the unsupported house, they all ran back and changed their original designs, adding legs to secure the house into the playdough and reinforcing the walls with duct tape. It was a great opportunity to explain they weren’t cheating – they were learning the design process!

One problem we found at the beginning, was the playdough sort of floated around the bin the first few times we dumped the water to create the storm surge. After two or three dumps, the playdough was wet enough to stick securely to the bottom of the plastic bin. Go ahead and get the playdough wet before you start testing the houses to avoid your island floating away.

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Surviving Storm Surge

Surviving Storm Surge

Children play the role of engineers as they build a model scene of a paper house on a play dough "coast" and inundate it with flood water to see if the house they made can withstand the rising tide.