Spanish Version

Monster Waves

Science/Math Activity

In this activity, students will build a tabletop village and use it to visualize the relative height and affects of gigantic waves called tsunamis.


  • Tremors Behind Tsunamis (print and copy)
  • A map of the world
  • Small cardboard gift boxes or oak tag
  • Construction paper
  • Tape or glue
  • Colored markers
  1. Read Tremors Behind Tsunamis to give students background on tsunamis and where they are likely to occur. Some students may to wish look in additional sources for more information on the topic.

  2. Explain to students that the class will be making a replica of a seaside fishing village or port city to help them visualize the massive size of tsunamis and the destruction they can cause.

  3. Divide students into small groups, having each group build a different section of the village or city. Encourage students to decide, as a class, which group will make buildings, land area, tsunami, etc.

  4. Suggest that students make some buildings more than one story high. Later the class can decide how high a story would be in actual height.

  5. When groups are done, have them assemble the village or city. Before placing the tsunami, they should speculate how high a tsunami wave would reach in the model.

  6. Have students use the model to discuss what the tsunami would do to the village or city, the affect on the people who live there, and what could be done to prepare for future tsunamis.
  • Have students write a newspaper article giving geographic reasons why your community would probably never experience a tsunami or might experience one.

  • Traditional Japanese ideas about the source of gigantic waves that periodically come ashore and wreck Japanese coastal villages are found in the book The Big Wave by Pearl S. Buck. Have students read the book and discuss what the villagers believed caused the big wave. Encourage them to support their ideas with quotes that explain the attitudes of the villagers toward the overwhelming catastrophes they experienced from killer waves from the sea.

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