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4-6th Grade Virtual Book Discussion: The Disaster Days by Rebecca Behrens w/ Liquification Demo

The Disaster Days by Rebecca Behrens

Hannah Steele lives on a small island near Seattle and she loves her little utopia. Her home has always made her feel safe and secure. So when she’s asked to babysit for her neighbors two kids for a few hours, she jumps at the chance. Besides, she’s just finished her babysitting course and the kids aren’t that young. She isn’t even worried that she left her inhaler at home.

But then the unthinkable happens. An earthquake hits that shakes everything. Power is out, the house is a mess, cell services is down and Hannah and the kids are completely cut off from any adult... from any adults at all.

As things go from bad to worse, will Hannah be able to keep her wits about her?

Discussion Questions:

  1. What is the book about? What are the main themes?

  2. How does Hannah feel about her upcoming babysitting job? Does she take it seriously and does her conversation with her mom change the way she feels?

  3. Pelling Island is a secluded island off the coast of Seattle. There are three homes and a park preserve on the island. What are the pros and cons of living in such a secluded area?

  4. What is an earthquake?

  5. When the power and cell service goes out, Hannah, Zoe and Oscar are constantly thinking about “Googling” their questions and are frustrated that they can’t immediately get an answer. How do they end up looking up the information they need?

  6. What is an aftershock and why are they so dangerous?

  7. What is an emergency plan? Does your family have one?

  8. What do you think is the purpose of Hannah’s texts/fight with Neha? What does this contribute to the story?

  9. Hannah suffers from Asthma and has to always be vigilant about it. Why does this bother Hannah so much and what does she realize about herself by the end of the story?

  10. Realistically, how do you think you would do if you were put in Hannah’s shoes? Do you know what to do in an emergency? When an adult isn’t around?

DIY: Seismograph Supplies:

  • Shoebox size cardboard box

  • String

  • Plastic or paper cup

  • Marker

  • Some coins

  • Paper/Scissors/Tape

A seismograph is a tool that is used to measure and record the vibrations of the Earth. We can simulate a seismograph with some simple materials.

  1. Turn your cardboard box longways and on its side so that the opening is facing you.

  2. (With parent permission/help) Take a nail/scissor/screw driver and poke two holes in the top of the box. Also cut slits into the two sides at the bottom.

  3. Take your cup and attach your string to both sides. Then make a whole the size of your marker in the bottom of the cup.

  4. String your cup to the top of the box and let it hang about an inch from the bottom.

  5. Insert your marker into the hole in the bottom of the cup so that it is just touching the bottom of the box. Fill the bottom of the cup with a small handful of coins.

  6. Take one piece of paper and cut it into four long strips. Tape the strips together and pull it through the slits at the bottom of the box.

  7. Once you are set up, let the cup and marker hang. Observe that the cup isn’t moving. There are no vibrations at the moment. Now try gently knocking the table the box is on to simulate an earthquake. What happens?

  8. Knock a little harder. As the building shakes, pull the paper through the strips and observe the waves the marker makes on the paper. How do the waves look different based on the force of your quake?

DEMO: Soil Liquefaction

I am going to DEMO for the kids this really cool example of soil liquefaction I found Exploratorium. I don't have a pan quite as deep, so if it doesn't end up working out, we will watch the video on the website. I really hope it works out because the book specifically mentions soil liquefaction and I think the kids would really enjoy it.

Here is a before and after picture of our demonstration:

Before our earthquake

After our earthquake


How'd it go:

The soil liquefaction demo actually went better then our seismograph. Having both a demo and a follow along activity left us a little rushed, so the seismograph could have used a bit more finesse. But we learned a lot about earthquakes and I think the kids got a real kick out of the demo. Now time for clean up!

That's all for now!


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