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Columbia Climate School International Research Institute for Climate and Society


6th, 7th, 8th


Science, Social Studies, Earth and Space Sciences, Civics, Geography

Resource Types

  • Activity - Classroom
  • Lesson Plan

Regional Focus

Global, North America, United States, USA - Northeast, New Jersey



Disastrous Decision Making

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  • This resource has students act as mayor, social advisor, and science advisor in a town that is vulnerable to flooding.
  • Students will learn about social vulnerability, mapping tools, and how decisions are made during flood events.
Teaching Tips


  • This activity is hands-on and engaging for students.
  • Everything a teacher needs to implement this lesson is ready in the resource.

Additional Prerequisites

  • Students should have prior knowledge of flooding, natural disasters, and how governments function during disasters.
  • The PDF document has a link to a brief introduction video for the activity.


  • Cross-curricular connections can be made in social studies classes discussing civics and language arts classes working on collaborative discussion and debate.
  • Try having students rotate through the roles in the game for a complete understanding of the activity.
  • As an extension, have students research the government response to different flooding events and what they could have done differently.
Scientist Notes
The guide has students understand the concept of social vulnerability and how local hazards affects people's livelihoods. They learn ways to use data and map outputs to assess vulnerability levels in their communities. Students develop and recommend strategies and contingency plans for policymakers and decision-makers to mitigate or respond to flood, hurricane, and other natural disaster events in their communities. This resource is recommended for teaching.

This resource addresses the listed standards. To fully meet standards, search for more related resources.

  • Science
    • ESS2: Earth's Systems
      • MS-ESS2-4. Develop a model to describe the cycling of water through Earth’s systems driven by energy from the sun and the force of gravity.
      • MS-ESS2-5. Collect data to provide evidence for how the motions and complex interactions of air masses result in changes in weather conditions.
      • MS-ESS2-6. Develop and use a model to describe how unequal heating and rotation of the Earth cause patterns of atmospheric and oceanic circulation that determine regional climates.
    • ESS3: Earth and Human Activity
      • MS-ESS3-4. Construct an argument supported by evidence for how increases in human population and per-capita consumption of natural resources impact Earth’s systems.
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