Lesson Plan

How Natural Disasters Discriminate

Hurricane Katrina Survivors at Astrodome and Reliant Center

Andrea Booher / FEMA Photo Library

Approximately 18,000 hurricane Katrina survivors housed in the Red Cross shelter at the Astrodome and Reliant Stadium after New Orleans was evacuated. Houston, TX, September 2, 2005.

GRADE LEVEL: Middle School

COMMON CORE STANDARDS: Reading, Writing, Speaking and Listening

Updated December 2020

Natural disasters have dominated the news headlines lately with powerful hurricanes in North Carolina and the Caribbean, a forceful earthquake in Mexico and severe wildfires in Oregon, California and other western states. These events have had significant and damaging impacts on the people, buildings and natural environment in those locations and resulted in injury, death, destruction of homes and businesses, displacement and homelessness, loss of food, water and electricity and many other residual effects. While many people think that natural disasters don’t discriminate and are “equal opportunity” catastrophes, the reality is that natural disasters impact people in different ways and tend to have a more negative and lasting effect on certain identity groups such as women, poor people, people who are disabled, people who are elderly and undocumented immigrants.

This lesson provides an opportunity for students to define and learn more about natural disasters, reflect on their own thoughts, opinions and experiences with natural disasters and consider the ways that natural disasters do discriminate in that they impact certain identity groups in disproportionate ways.