K. Seraphin Duncan, J. Phillippoff, F.M. Pottenger, L. Kaupp, M.H. Lurie, D. Lin and Baumgartner, E.
Type Category
Instructional Materials
Activity , Data , Informative Text , Model , Phenomenon , Simulation
This resource, vetted by NSTA curators, is provided to teachers along with suggested modifications to make it more in line with the vision of the NGSS. While not considered to be “fully aligned,” the resources and expert recommendations provide teachers with concrete examples and expert guidance using the EQuIP rubric to adapted existing resources. Read more here.



In the activity Tsunamis, students will predict and observe the wave properties of a Tsunami.The content and activities in this resource will work towards building an understanding of the causes of tsunamis, natural hazards that can devastate low lying coastal areas. This lesson consists of four parts: A question set, two activities and further investigations. In order to complete the question set, students must utilize text, interpret diagrams and data tables. In the first activity: Sendai, Japan, which focuses on the Sendai Tsunami of 2011. It is important that the teacher familiarize themselves with the animation controls and for the students to practice with the animation controls and switching between the “Wave energy map” and the “Tsunami animation”. Students will record the data from the animations on the included data table along with any other observations, in the “observations” column of the data table.In the second activity: Tsunami Warning System Poster, students create a sign or a flyer and include important facts needed to educate people about Tsunami safety. The last section on further investigations lists additional research questions and goes into historical information about tsunamis and their causes. This lesson should take 3 hours; however, if the further investigations are included, an additional 2 hours may be needed to complete the work.


Intended Audience

Educational Level
  • Grade 6
  • Grade 7
  • Grade 8
  • Middle School
Access Restrictions

Limited free access - Some material is available for viewing and/or downloading but most material tends to be accessible through other means.

Performance Expectations

MS-ESS3-2 Analyze and interpret data on natural hazards to forecast future catastrophic events and inform the development of technologies to mitigate their effects.

Clarification Statement: Emphasis is on how some natural hazards, such as volcanic eruptions and severe weather, are preceded by phenomena that allow for reliable predictions, but others, such as earthquakes, occur suddenly and with no notice, and thus are not yet predictable. Examples of natural hazards can be taken from interior processes (such as earthquakes and volcanic eruptions), surface processes (such as mass wasting and tsunamis), or severe weather events (such as hurricanes, tornadoes, and floods). Examples of data can include the locations, magnitudes, and frequencies of the natural hazards. Examples of technologies can be global (such as satellite systems to monitor hurricanes or forest fires) or local (such as building basements in tornado-prone regions or reservoirs to mitigate droughts).

Assessment Boundary: none

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this performance expectation.

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
Students will analyze and interpret data from the National Geographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) animation that shows the wave patterns and the wave energy of a tsunami. Students will create a graph of wave height vs time and study structures humans have built to prevent shoreline erosion. Students will create an information poster or flyer based on research and the best safety information for the selected coastal area. “Students should read and discuss the introductory web page which addresses the development of the internationally coordinated Tsunami Warning System to address the portion of the performance expectation that addressed technology to mitigate the of effects of Tsunamis.”

Science and Engineering Practices

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this science and engineering practice.

Comments about Including the Science and Engineering Practice
Students analyze and interpret data from the NOAA animation to build an understanding of wave energy, wave height, and the effect of the destructiveness of tsunamis. A final product based on researching additional data is having the students create a warning poster or flyer for a coastal population.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

This resource was not designed to build towards this disciplinary core idea, but can be used to build towards it using the suggestions provided below.

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
The lesson utilizes the data from the Global Science Investigator mapping tool to observe the effects of tsunamis. This lesson specifically focuses on the 2011 Tsunami generated by the earthquake off the coast of Sendai, Japan. Students will observe the earthquake magnitude and calculate wave height and the time needed to reach the destination. Students will have an opportunity to learn how to predict the path of the tsunami. The poster product is an informational message of tsunami safety for people living in coastal areas.

Crosscutting Concepts

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this crosscutting concept.

Comments about Including the Crosscutting Concept
Students will look at the graphs, charts, informational text, illustrations and an animation to find a pattern between wave height, wave energy and location.

Resource Quality

  • Alignment to the Dimensions of the NGSS: This lesson series is strongly aligned to two of the three dimensions of NGSS. Students will analyze data (Practice) to make sense of phenomenon related to tsunamis. The lesson includes observing patterns (Cross Cutting Concept) in the animations to make sense of the phenomena of wave propagation. Students look at the hazards caused by tsunamis and make determinations about what locations will be most impacted (Disciplinary Core Idea). For this lesson series to be better aligned to 3D learning, all four parts of this series must be included. A further investigation into causes of tsunamis should take place and a look at other tsunami evidence should occur.

  • Instructional Supports: "Tsunamis" uses scientifically accurate and grade-appropriate scientific information to support students in their investigation of tsunamis and their impact on human populations. The models from the Global Science Investigator mapping tool are used for students to observe and record any general observations about the tsunami waves and the patterns of the waves, from the 2011 Japan earthquake, as they move across the Pacific. The final product, creating a tsunami warning poster or flyer, aids in helping communicate the hazards involved and is derived from students own data and research of the phenomena. The poster will be shared with peers and members of the community. The activity does not provide any suggestions on differentiation.

  • Monitoring Student Progress: A link to the informational text, animations, and activity sheets are provided and can be downloaded for student use. No rubrics or scoring guidelines are provided to assist in student performance or to provide ongoing feedback to students. No formative or summative assessments are included. Subscription via registration will give access to a teacher’s guide with tips and a video. The activity can be done without the subscription. Students will also want to look at other types of natural disaster warning posters and flyers before they make their own. This lesson sequence is unbiased and accessible to all students.

  • Quality of Technological Interactivity: Internet access is required to access the lesson URL. The only interaction with technology will be the NOAA Global Science Investigator. The instructions for how to access the data sets are included on the website. Teachers can also download the worksheets provided. A subscription is required for teacher’s guide access, which is not necessary for use of the lesson sequence.