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Disaster Shapes

Science/Art Activity

Some natural elements of disasters exhibit distinct shapes that students will recognize. In this activity, students will make a mobile that will allow them to take a closer look at these shapes.


  • Nonfiction books with illustrations of volcanoes, tornadoes, hurricanes, and lightning
  • Oak tag
  • Colored markers, paints, crayons
  • Metal hangers
  • Yarn
  • Tape


  1. Brainstorm with students a list of natural disasters. Then explain to students that they are going to closely examine the shapes that are associated with some natural elements that can cause disasters.

  2. Have students look through books and magazines for illustrations of different kinds of natural hazards. Then have them discuss the shapes and forms they recognize in these pictures. Here are some examples that students might recognize:
    • The zig-zag or river-like patterns of lightning
    • The funnel shape of a tornado
    • The triangular shape of a volcano's cone
    • The spiral shape of a hurricane (can only be seen in photos)

  3. Divide students into small groups and have each group choose one natural disaster shape (that has been discussed) as the theme for a mobile. Have students draw a picture(s) of the disaster shape on oak tag. Then have them think of other things in nature with the same shape and draw those on oak tag too. Here are some examples to get students started:
    • A snail's shell and a snake have the spiral shape of a hurricane.
    • The web of some spiders and a lily have the funnel shape of a tornado.
    • Some kinds of leaves and ant hills have the triangular shape of a volcano's cone.
    • Some rivers and tree branches have the zig-zag shape of lightning.

  4. Have students attach their oak tag pictures to yarn and tape them to a coat hanger to complete the mobile.

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