One of the most dangerous natural disaster conditions along shorelines is the phenomenon known as a tsunami. As a teacher, help students examine various aspects of tsunamis such as where their name comes from, how they happen, and what happens to the land when one hits.

Wave Comparison

After giving a lecture on comparing wave heights to tsunami heights, guide students in making a scale-model comparison of a tsunami and a regular wave. Scale down the average sizes of regular waves and tsunamis to inches. Provide everyone with clay, a ruler and something on which to put their sculptures. Tell them how many inches high to make the regular wave and how many inches to make the tsunami.

Etymology Project

Look up the Japanese characters, both the kanji and hiragana, for the word "tsunami": "tsu," for "port" or "harbor," and "nami" for "wave," and make a copy of these characters. In class, have students get out their dictionaries. After writing down the word "tsunami" in English on the board for reference, ask everyone to look up "tsunami." Have someone read the definition aloud, or read it from your own dictionary. Write the Japanese characters for "tsunami" on the board, explaining which character goes with which sound, explaining that kanji are borrowed Chinese characters, while hiragana are alphabetical characters. Point out that in Japanese, you pronounce the "t" in "tsunami." Discuss why the Japanese would use the name "tsunami" for this phenomenon.

Tsunami Model

Have the students work together to make small plywood house models. Fill a large plastic storage container partly with water. Have one of the students drop an object such as a stone or rubber ball into the water and have everyone watch. Discuss what it looked like. Next, pour gravel into the container to build a gently sloping coastline on one side and set the houses in the gravel. Have another student drop the object into the water and discuss the results. Pour more gravel into the container to build up the coastline into a sharply sloping one and have a third student drop the object. Discuss and compare the differences. Experiment with larger and smaller objects to start the wave.

Mural Project

Give an overview lecture on the causes of tsunamis. Have students create a paper mural project focused on one of these causes. Take a poll as to which cause the majority of students wishes to focus upon, or choose one yourself. Paper a wall, either with a large ream of paper or with computer paper or poster board. Have each person draw part of the scene, or create paper cutouts on which students can draw and have them glue the cutouts on the mural to form the scene.