Preschoolers cannot fully understand the dangers surrounding natural disasters or appreciate the need for routine earthquake drills. However, a thorough and practiced earthquake drill will prevent panic and confusion in the event of a disastrous occurrence. Drills help reduce fear during a scary situation. Developing an effective, comprehensive drill can seem daunting, but with the right information and equipment, your school will be able to put together a concrete plan and practice it smoothly.
1. Start With a Lesson
Before introducing the drill to your preschool class, familiarize the students with the concepts of natural disasters and earthquakes through a fun, hands-on environmental science lesson. Creating interest in the subject of earthquakes will pay off in several ways. First, you can ease the fear surrounding natural disasters, which will translate to an easier learning process and a calmer approach to a future emergency incident. As a bonus, students who have learned about why the earthquake is happening and how it is happening can begin to understand the gravity of the moment and the importance of listening to instruction from an adult.
When designing your pre-earthquake drill lesson plan, one strategy to keep your students’ interest is to develop a two-part session combining academic instruction with an exciting learning activity.
Communicate the following short academic instruction on earthquakes, or something similar:
Imagine the Earth is a giant puzzle! The puzzle pieces are called tectonic plates and they’re made out of rock. The tectonic plates of Earth’s big jigsaw puzzle are constantly moving. We don’t usually feel it, because the puzzle pieces move very slowly. But sometimes, the tectonic plate puzzle pieces will bump into each other, or slide against each other, and we will actually be able to feel the Earth moving! It feels like the Earth is shaking, and the ground is moving, and when that happens, we are having an earthquake. Most earthquakes last less than one minute, but they can be scary, and they can feel like they go on forever. There is no way to predict when or where an earthquake will happen. We will only know an earthquake is happening when the ground starts shaking beneath us. Though we can’t tell when an earthquake will come, or if one will ever come at all, we can still be a class that is prepared for earthquakes!
For the next step, keep kids’ attention and help them visualize the concept of an earthquake through an activity. The following educational earthquake activity for preschoolers can be done as a class, or in smaller groups.
To play as a class:
Tell the children they will be pretending they are at the Epicenter of an earthquake, or the place and time where an earthquake is felt. Instruct your students that they will be “dressing up” as the Earth’s tectonic plates—the stars of the show! To create their “costumes,” have each child draw a puzzle piece on a sheet of construction paper in their favorite color. Write “tectonic plate” on each puzzle piece. Using a piece of tape, affix the sheet of construction paper to the child’s shirt. Instruct students that each time they run into another tectonic plate puzzle piece, two tectonic plates have collided, and an earthquake has occurred. Either in an open area of the classroom, or outside at recess, allow the students to play tag or run around freely. Anytime someone bumps or slides into another student, yell “Earthquake!”
To play in smaller groups:
Have the children tear construction paper into smaller pieces about the size of their hands. Instruct children that they have just created a puzzle, and each piece of the puzzle is like the Earth’s tectonic plates. Either placing the construction paper pieces in a shallow container or on a table, allow children to move puzzle pieces together and say “Earthquake!” each time the pieces touch.
2. Divide Your Drills into Three Scenarios
When you’re developing your drills, it is important to make sure your preschoolers are prepared for any and every dangerous earthquake situation. At any time that they are in your custody, students may be indoors, outdoors, or, if you provide transportation, they may be on a school bus, van, or car. It is crucial to develop and practice drills for all three scenarios.
For your indoor earthquake drill:
Locate a space in the building away from windows or furniture that could tip over. Second, locate a place where students can take cover from any potential falling debris under something sturdy. For example, have students crouch under their desks or a classroom table. Instruct preschoolers to remember the three steps in an earthquake emergency: drop, cover, and hold on. First, drop: get low to the ground. Second, cover: get under your desk or table. Third, hold on: instruct students to hold onto the legs of the desk or table until the shaking stops.
For your outdoor earthquake drill:
Locate a space in your schoolyard away from other buildings, streetlights, and powerlines. Instruct students to follow their teacher as they lead them to the open space and to stay there together until the shaking has stopped. Tell the children not to run, push, talk, try to bring their things with them outside, or try to return to the building once they’re outside.
For your bus or van earthquake drill:
Instruct the students that in the event an earthquake occurs while they are going to or from school, the adult will stop driving. Tell students that it is very important that they stay on the bus or van.
3. Practice Makes Perfect!
As we mentioned before, practicing your drill with your preschoolers brings familiarity to the concept of an earthquake, even if the students cannot fully comprehend the situation’s complexity. That familiarity leads to calmness in students, making students easier to manage and protect in an emergency.
Earthquakes can knock out power and water at your school. Is your school prepared with the proper equipment in the event of a natural disaster? By having necessary supplies available at your building, teachers will be able to competently respond in the event of an emergency. Depending on your school’s emergency protocol, a classroom lockdown may be necessary in the event of a natural disaster. All schools should make sure their emergency kit is ready for action. If you find yourself without a lockdown or emergency kit, School Safety Solution can help you become emergency ready. We carry lockdown kits, emergency kits, and first aid supplies to meet a variety of classroom sizes and needs.