Learning About Science and Engineering From Tornadoes

The tragedy brought about by natural disasters will leave your students with a lot of questions. Even students not directly affected by a damaging storm may find images of a twister and its aftermath scary.


We've linked a few resources that you can use to help elementary and middle-school aged students understand the science behind tornadoes and the engineering solutions that mitigate, or help us recover from these weather phenomenon. 

How do tornadoes work?

The website How Stuff Works explains the science behind tornadoes and includes images and videos.

Tornadoes 101

A video from National Geographic directed at elementary-aged learners.

Deadliest Tornadoes

A NOVA documentary looks at the deadly 2011 season of tornadoes. Great for middle school students or for teacher professional development.

How to prepare for a tornado

A kid-friendly web-page of instructions. To help students "own" the information by asking them to draw a comic/ info-graphic that conveys some of this information their understanding of tornado preparation. 

Tornado Damage

Complete lesson plan (with assessment questions, activities, and resources) for a lesson about the damage caused by tornadoes from TeachEngineering.org.

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About the Author

Marjee Chmiel, PhD

Marjee is the Director of Evaluation and Editorial Development at Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Marjee previous worked at the Smithsonian Science Education Center as the Division Director of Curriculum and Communications. Marjee has an undergraduate degree in chemistry and a master's degree in curriculum design, both from Marquette University. Her PhD is from George Mason University in Educational Research and Evaluation Methods.