Hurricane-Resistant Building Design

We used the Earthquake EBS module last year as part of our 8th grade science curriculum. The kids loved the hands on nature of the module and particularly enjoyed building the "earthquake proof" buildings of styrofoam. We decided to also use the "Hurricane!" module this year, but when looking through the "Hurricane!" book last year I didn't see a constuction activity such as the styrofoam earthquake building activity.

I thought about this over the summer and came up with a construction/building activity for our "Hurricane!" module. The construction activity I developed was for students to construct a model building out of index cards that would sustain minimal damage when exposed to "hurricane force winds". Our hurricane force winds were provided by an electric leafblower.

The students were supplied with twenty 3X5 inch index cards, an 8X8 inch cardboard base and a sheet of thirty white blank 1X3 inch labels. I used the labels rather than tape because it's much easier to store unused labels from one day to the next.

Before building, I informed students of the model building specifications. Each model building should be at least 11 inches tall and be able to support a 50 gram mass weight. Students were provided with 80 minutes of building time spread over two class periods. All groups(I had 30 groups in my five classes), regardless of abilities, were able to construct a building.

I developed a scoring rubric for the buildings based on height, support ability and strength in the wind. If a building was 11 inches or more the group recieved a certain amount of points. If the building could support 50 grams, they recieved a certain point value. Lastly, when we tested the building in our "hurricane winds", we measured how much the building leaned. The less it leaned the greater point value. For every card that became dislodged or blew away points were lost.

Upon conclusion of this test, all students wrote a journal entry in their science notebooks in which they wrote of their successes and frustrations with this activity and design features they would incorporate in a real building so that it would sustain minimal damage in a real hurricane.

Roger Johnson
Maplewood Middle School
Maplewood, NJ


Copyright © 2002 Event-Based Science Project