I can describe an avalanche and explain how to stay safe during one.

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Students learn about avalanches and they learn how to prepare for an avalanche. They'll learn what to do before an avalanche occurs, during an avalanche, and after.



Learning objective

Students will be able to describe an avalanche and explain how to prepare and stay safe.


Students are asked to turn and talk to a partner about fun activities that can be done in the snow or that they have done in the snow. Introduce the term 'avalanche' and explain that they are dangerous events in which large amounts of snow quickly fall down a mountain. Tell students that by learning about avalanches, they can learn to be prepared when they do occur. Watch the video presented in the lesson to give a visual representation of different kinds of avalanches and then answer the questions based on the video.


Explain how avalanches are caused and when they happen most often. Next, discuss the people who study avalanches and where avalanches occur. After this, discuss what to do if you find yourself in an avalanche by telling students what to do before, during, and after an avalanche. Tell students that the best way to avoid getting in an avalanche is to avoid areas that have been declared unsafe. If they do plan to go on the mountain, they should make sure to go with a friend, wear safety gear, and check the weather before going. Discuss with students that if they do see an avalanche, the best way to survive is to move to the side (as far as possible) and to grab a tree. If that's not possible, try to make swimming motions to stay on top of the snow as it falls. Another tip is to make an air pocket and hold an arm up to make finding you easier. The final stage is of course after the avalanche. Tell students that they should try to call 911 and try to avoid hypothermia (which will be easier if they are wearing the right gear). The best, but most difficult tip for the students is to stay calm. Discuss why it is important to stay calm with the students. Have students draw lines between an action and whether it should be done before, during, or after an avalanche. Then ask students to fill in the blanks with words from the word bank. Challenge students to spin the wheel and name at least one thing that they could do before/during/after an avalanche.


Students are asked who, where, when, and how questions in which they are given a statement and must define if it tells who, where, when, or how. Next, they must determine if the given action is for something they could do before, during, or after an avalanche.


Close the lesson by having students create an avalanche in groups. Have students start with two books on the floor on top of each other to represent the ground and a slab of snow. Have them lift an end of the bottom book up. How long does it take to get the second book (the snow slab) to start moving? Then add a layer of salt between the two books to represent the layer of loose snow below the hard snow. Lift one end of the bottom book off the floor. How fast does it slide now? Resalt the top of the first book and finally add a third book on top of the second book to represent the skier. Lift up the bottom book, how fast do they slide? Discuss with the class.

Teaching tips

If you live in a mountainous area, you may want to check for the students' personal experience with avalanches before teaching the lesson. Since some students are very scared of natural hazards, make sure to inform them that by following rules and posted signs they should be safe, but knowing how to increase survival in these situations is always positive.

Instruction materials

You will need books and salt for the final activity.

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