I have personally experienced several climate disasters including snow storms, tornadoes, hurricanes, and even droughts. Being an army spouse allowed me to experience the effects of climate change both nationally and internationally. These experiences gave me the background and personal knowledge needed to help others cope with climate-related issues.
In 2021, my students and I experienced Hurricane Ida. It was an active hurricane season and everyone was on high alert. The forecasters predicted that Hurricane Ida was going to cause significant damage. Our school's administrative team met with staff and other school employees to review our safety plan. On August 29, 2021, Ida hit with a vengeance. Schools and businesses were closed indefinitely. In addition, hospitals were filled to capacity due to injuries sustained during the storm.
After being out of school for nearly three weeks, half of my students did not return. Many families lost their homes and were left stranded miles away. I asked myself, “What can I teach my students after Hurricane Ida?” First, I taught coping and empathy skills. It was important to ensure that my students were ready to communicate and analyze what they experienced before teaching them about the disaster that they witnessed.
Then I spent time getting to understand what they already knew about the subject. This helped me to plan and drive my instruction. I also taught a thorough lesson about climate-related disasters focusing on the history of hurricanes in our region, their causes, and ways to better prepare for them.
I also wanted to give students an opportunity to investigate on their own. This gave my students autonomy in finding information that was appealing to their individual learning styles. It also fostered ownership and helped them feel empowered in their learning. Another technique I used was journaling. Having students journal their experiences, emotions, and memories served as a great SEL opportunity.
All in all, I not only taught information about the subject but also exposed my students to social-emotional skills to help them cope with climate-related disasters in the future.
About the Author: Yvette Brooks Tyler was born in Church Point, Louisiana. She earned a Master of Arts in Teaching from SUNY Potsdam and a Bachelor's Degree from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. She works as an educator, writer, director, and producer. She lives between Church Point and New Orleans, Louisiana.