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Paul D. Coverdell World Wise Schools

Paul D. Coverdell World Wise Schools

Life in a Hurricane Zone

The Caribbean, Dominican Republic
Grades 6-8, Grades 9-12
Language Arts & Literature

Students will learn about the nature of hurricanes and examine in detail the effect of Hurricane Georges upon the Dominican Republic.

Note to Teachers: There is a culminating performance task for this unit (see Assessment). Help your students prepare for this activity by asking them to complete one of the following activities:

  • Create a series of diary entries, written during the week of Hurricane Georges. Write about the days preceding the hurricane, during the hurricane, and after the hurricane.
  • Create a series of drawings or sketches made before, during, and after the storm.
  • Write a script for a short play that enables you and one or two other fellow Dominican "citizens" to act out what happened for the reporter.Access a series of photographs and news articles about the hurricane from the Internet. Use them to tell your story.
  • Write a letter that you, as a Dominican citizen, wrote to relatives living in the United States immediately after the hurricane, describing to them what happened and what it felt like to live through a hurricane.


  • Students will be able to use primary source documents to determine the impact of natural disasters on developing countries, like the Dominican Republic.
  • Students will be able to explain the way in which physical systems (e.g., a hurricane) can affect human systems (e.g., the life of a community or country).
  • Students will be able to describe how working together to respond to a natural disaster can unite people from diverse countries in a common bond of humanity.
  • Students will write a press release describing the impact of Hurricane Georges on the people of the Dominican Republic.
  • Students will assume the role of Dominican citizens who are being interviewed about the impact of Hurricane Georges by a reporter from an international television network.


  •  Excerpts from articles found on the web 


  1.  Remind students that they have looked at maps, interviews, demographics, and videos to answer the question How does where you live influence how you live?
  2. Explain to students that, in this lesson, they will explore the following essential questions:
    • How do natural disasters affect the life of a country and its people?
    • How can responding to a natural disaster bring a community together and unite people, no matter what their country, in a common bond of humanity?
  3. Ask students to form pairs to discuss how they think a natural disaster might bring a community together. Then address the question in a class discussion.
  4. Explain to students that in this lesson, they will read newspaper accounts regarding the impact of Hurricane Georges on the Dominican Republic. They will also read firsthand accounts from Peace Corps Volunteers who were in the Dominican Republic when the hurricane struck. They will explore the question How can responding to a natural disaster bring a community together and unite people, no matter what their country, in a common bond of humanity?
  5. Ask students whether anyone in the class, or in their families, has experienced a natural disaster such as a hurricane, tornado, earthquake, avalanche, typhoon, or forest fire. If so, how did it affect their lives? How did it affect their community?
  6. Help students see the connection between natural disasters and the place where you live. Are there some places that are more vulnerable than others? Focus on the impact of the disaster on the community.
  7. One of the realities of living in the Dominican Republic is living in the path of Atlantic, Caribbean, and Gulf of Mexico hurricanes during hurrican season (June 1?November 30).
  8. This is an opportunity to look at the physical system of a hurricane (i.e., what a hurricane is, how it forms, why it is capable of doing widespread damage, the kinds of damage it can do, and when and where hurricanes may strike) to address the National Geography Standard: Students will be able to explain how physical systems affect human systems.
  9. Ask students to read the information on the handout What Is a Hurricane? (find link above). In addition, have them access the National Hurricane Center's website
  10. Have students underline the most important information using a highlighter.
  11. Ask the students to write a "two-minute paper" summarizing the big ideas they have learned about hurricanes.
  12. Explain to students that, now that they know about hurricanes in general, they are going to have the opportunity to learn about Hurricane Georges, a hurricane that had a devastating impact in 1998 on the people of the Dominican Republic.
  13. Have students search the Internet for the USA Today articles "Hurricane Death Toll in Caribbean Climbs to 370," and "Hurricane Georges' Damage Reports." Ask students to record information, such as lives lost, homes damaged, crop damage, impact on the economy, and impact on the country and its people. Students can find more information on the National Hurricane Center's website.
  14. Explain to students that in this part of the lesson they will write a press release on Hurricane Georges, as if they were Peace Corps Volunteers in the Dominican Republic in 1998 when the hurricane struck. The press release is designed to be sent home to their local newspaper.
  15. To prepare students for writing the press release, read to them, or have them read, the transcript of the interview with Peace Corps Volunteer Mary Bosy, who was living in the city of Hato Mayor in the Dominican Republic at the time that Hurricane Georges struck. Remind students they have already "met" Mary Bosy in the Dominican Republic video.
  16. Read to students, or have them read, excerpts from the interview with former Peace Corps country director for the Dominican Republic Natalie Woodward, who also was in the Dominican Republic during the hurricane. Please note: There is a condensed version of the Natalie Woodward interview for use with middle school students and a more extensive version for use with high school students.
  17. As students read the interviews, they can prepare for writing the press release by looking for the answers to the questions provided in Worksheet #7 (find link above).
  18. Provide students with a self-assessment checklist (Worksheet #8) (find link above) for writing the press release.
  19. After students have written their press release, have them share it with a partner for proofreading and feedback. Ask students, as they are reading their partner's press release, to refer to the self-assessment checklist to determine whether all items have been addressed.
  20. Provide time for students to revise their press release, based on their partner's comments and feedback. Ask them to give their revised press release to you.
  21. Once you have read students' press releases and provided comments and feedback, give students one more opportunity for revision.
  22. Then, lead a class discussion on the following questions:
    • How would you have felt if you had been in the Dominican Republic when Hurricane Georges hit? Why? Which relief efforts would you have wanted to be involved in?
    • If you had been a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Dominican Republic at the time of Hurricane Georges, how would you have felt?


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