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  • Key Stage 3
  • Topical

Type: Activity
Learning Strategy: Group discussion
Topic: States of matter

This month (November 2007) Cyclone Sidr hit Bangladesh. Millions were left homeless and 3 000 killed. The activity gets students to look at how cyclones happen and addresses the common misconception that air is 'nothing' and weightless.

The activity is closely related to a 2004 activity still on UPD8's web site (Hurricane Force). Since 2004 is 'ancient history' to many students, we have revamped this activity with a new and relevant context.

11-14 How Science Works:
New KS3 (from September 2008)

Using scientific ideas and models to explain phenomena

Published: 27th November 2007
Reviews & Comments: 3

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Learning objectives

Students will:
• Refer to particles when describing forces exerted by winds, and recognise that air has mass.
• Communicate what they learn, thus reinforcing their understanding of the model.

Try the activity

You will need Acrobat Reader installed to open the activity sheets.

11- 14 (KS3)

From September 2008
1.1a Using scientific ideas and models to explain phenomena

3.2a The particle model provides explanations for the different physical properties and behaviour of matter

Until September 2008
QCA unit 7g Particles
• Describe the movement and arrangements of particles to explain phenomena.

Running the activity

Ask students what they know about Bangladesh and any news they have heard recently. Do they know why so many people have died? Why do cyclones occur and why are they so damaging? How would they feel if they lost their home/school to such a disaster? (For those who haven't heard anything about this, show/project the BBC News Online reports, given below).

Most people think that water is the only cause of the devastation, because of the associated flooding:
'There is a brick road, that has been completely destroyed by the water. Bricks were removed and thrown away - such was the power of the water.' (BBC News).

But the wind is actually to blame:
'The wind was very strong and the damage is huge. Lots of houses in the village were damaged too.' (BBC News)

Then display pages 1 and 2. These are a news bulletin about the recent cyclone in Bangladesh. Only outline scientific information is included here. Point out the task at the bottom of page 2. Tell students that the questions and information on page 3 will guide them in preparing their TV piece. Ask them to use examples and props, if possible, to bring their piece to life.

• Cyclones occur in the Southern Pacific and Indian Ocean. In the Western Pacific they are known as typhoons, and in the Eastern Pacific they are known as hurricanes. Tropical cyclones, such as Sidr which hit the south-east coastline of Bangladesh, spiral anticlockwise producing violent winds speeding at 240 km/hour, torrential rain and storm surges (high waves pushed towards the shore by the wind) higher than a metre, which leads to heavy flooding. This leads to contaminated drinking water and the spread of water-borne diseases. The science correspondent mentions wind and students should be aware that whilst the majority of damage is caused by water, the actual culprit is the wind. But how does the air wreak such havoc?

• You will need to either provide them with approximate values for the classroom dimensions or ask them to guess or measure it themselves.

• Page 3 describes fast moving air and its effects and develops students' concept of particles, air having a mass, and the force exerted by a cyclone using visualisation processes. When imagining air particles, perhaps the students could close their eyes whilst you read this section out to them.

• If you have time, consider showing students one of the 'Look Around You' (e.g. ) clips as an example of a bad science show. How would they ensure accuracy and improve their own presentation to gain the trust of the public?

News links

National Geographic
Useful resource of pictures and information for presentations and students can set up their own cyclones
USA government
Data relating to the most recent hurricanes
BBC weather
Stories on Cyclone Sidr, with useful links
BBC news
Another story on Cyclone Sidr with useful links
BBC news
Striking pictures of the results of Cyclone Sidr
Australia government
What is a cyclone? – useful summary information

Reviews & Comments

Write your online review to share your feedback and classroom tips with other teachers. How well does it work, how engaging is it, how did you use it, and how could it be improved?


May 5th, 2010

5 Star

excellent resource

Reviewer: Raj Kaur

Cyclone review

Jun 16th, 2009

5 Star

Excellent resource, very easy to use

Reviewer: Kelly Draper

explaining phenomena

Apr 26th, 2009

4 Star

very good if class is good at listening and forming opinion

Reviewer: mario georgiades

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