Disaster Preparation and Response Toolkit

Grade Level: 
PreK, K, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12
Disaster: Human Made
Disaster: Human-Made
Disaster: Natural
Ideas, lessons, and information to guide students and families as they address the issues of disaster preparedness and relief.
 Photo Credit: Wildfire by Daniel Stark is licensed under CC BY 2.0

When disaster strikes, whether caused by nature or humans, it is a time of trauma for the victims. Because we empathize with the victims, disasters bring out the humanitarian spirit of individuals and communities. The resources here provide opportunities to discuss our response to disaster and explore actions that young people can take before and after disaster strikes.

Disaster Relief Lesson Plans

The best service-learning projects are related to classroom instruction, involve student voice and choice, address a researched need, and work with local resources.

Teach Learning to Give lessons to connect service with academic subjects and build philanthropy knowledge and skills. These lesson plans teach about the issues, why we should care and act, and the skills and knowledge of social good, such as writing, advocacy, history, fundraising, and careers. 


Lesson Plans

Types of Service Projects:

Student action may be direct, indirect, advocacy, research, or a combination of these.


Project Ideas

Write Words of Encouragement to Victims of a Disaster

A disaster can claim the lives of families, residents, devastate homes, or interrupt the supply of basic needs. A frightening event may rob children of a sense of security. Learning to Give encourages young people to share their time and talent in a unique project with many ties to learning--through words and pictures of encouragement sent directly to an aid agency in the area of the disaster to be distributed to children who need moral support.

Activity Suggestion: Let young people in the area know that your hearts and kind wishes are with them in support and encouragement:

  • write a letter that says you care,
  • write one word of hope attached to a piece of art. (Conduct a little research in the history of the area, learn about the culture of the people affected, learn a few words in their language),
  • write a poem, or
  • draw a picture.

Put these creative wishes in an envelope and send them to the aid agency to be distributed to children or families. This is a creative way to share a little hope and let them know that people around the world are thinking of them. The Disaster Relief lesson plans below empower students to explore motivations and creative ways for giving treasure.

Note: About a month after a disaster, the most valuable help from a young person may be moral support. For example, a school in Atlanta was matched with a school in Japan after the tsunami. The children learned to write some Japanese characters for words such as “cheer up” “How are you?” “What is your name?” They sent cards with pictures and messages to Japanese children attending school in a shelter. The cards were very much appreciated. Prepare youth that they may not get a response. The recipients are busy and overwhelmed and may not have resources to respond.

More project ideas from Learning to Give's service-learning partner generationOn: Emergency prep and response projects for Kids and for Teens

Provide Help Before Disaster Strikes

How can we give our help before the disaster strikes? Some questions for youth to explore in their service-learning project:

  1. What are the potential disasters in your area?
  2. What are other disasters in other areas (geography and people)?
  3. How can your family prepare for the potential disaster?
  4. What are the needs in your community to prepare for disasters?
  5. Are there persecuted populations/potential victims who would benefit from advocacy?
  6. How can you help others prepare (information, kits, physical help)?

Activity Suggestion: Plan ahead for a Disaster: Create a Family or Individual Plan for your family or others in the community.
Before you get started on building a disaster kit it is important to understand what disasters you need to prepare for and how to create a plan for your family or another group in need. Follow the link to understand why disaster preparedness is so important, what disasters you are most vulnerable to, and how you can begin the process to plan and prepare for future disasters. 
Now it’s time to create a plan! Follow the link to begin building your plan. 
Be Prepared: Build a Disaster Preparedness Kit
Follow the links below to begin building the kit that is right for you or your family. 
Red Cross

More Ideas:

  • Make repairs or do yardwork for a family that experienced a loss.
  • Organize a neighborhood event and invite people who were affected by a disaster. Ask people to bring items and food to donate.
  • Participate in a Walk-a-Thon or other fundraiser to raise awareness and money for an agency that supports people who have experienced a disaster.
  • Make fleece blankets (or pillows) for children who have experienced a loss.  A blanket may provide warmth or be used as a comfort item. 
  • Collect toiletries, such as toothpaste, soap, socks, and snacks for families.
  • Write letters to show support for laws that help people recover from disasters.

Potential Community Partners and Resources for Investigation and Service

This is a list of online resources that may expand the learning around the issue area and involve the students in identifying needs and solutions.

  • Red Cross
  • Farm Services Agency (FSA)
  • Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
  • United Nations (UN)
  • National Hurricane Center (NOAA)
  • United States Geological Survey (USGS)
  • National Aeronautics Space Administration (NASA)
  • International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR)
  • Pacific Disaster Center (PDC)
  • National Center for Environmental Health (NCEH)
  • Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDCP)
  • National Center for Infectious Diseases (NCID)
  • World Health Organization (WHO)
  • Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements (NDRRA)
  • International City/County Management Association (ICMA)
  • Red Cross (ICRC), the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC)