A perfect storm: Examining natural disasters by combining traditional teaching methods with service-learning and innovative technology

In spring 2006, Duke University piloted a new, interdisciplinary, service-learning course, in which undergraduate, graduate, and professional students conducted a life cycle analysis of natural disasters. Invited experts discussed: the range of meteorologic, hydrologic and geologic factors that cause disasters; explored how societies plan for and/or respond to the immediate and long-term physical, social, emotional and spiritual issues associated with survival; and presented case studies of response, recovery and reconstruction efforts. Students had the option to participate in either a service-learning exercise in an area ravaged by a natural disaster or to research a topic related to natural disasters. All students attended the lecture component of the course and completed on-line quizzes to demonstrate understanding of the material presented. Students who elected to undertake the service-learning experience participated in a trip over spring break to assist residents of St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana. During their time in Louisiana, they kept journals (audio and written) of their activities and upon their return wrote a brief synopsis, and made a group oral presentation of their experience. Students not participating in a service-learning project prepared one individual paper on a relevant topic and one group paper, the results of which were presented to the class. Additionally, as part of the Duke Digital Initiative, the course also relied on technology to enhance student learning. Twice-weekly lectures were recorded and provided in the form of Webcasts for future reference and students completed online quizzes based on these lectures. Also, students recorded interviews with hurricane survivors and volunteers on Duke issued iPods and used that audio content, interwoven with their own thoughts and experiences, to create audio journals about their service-learning experiences. © 2008 TEMPUS Publications.

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Schaad, DE; Franzoni, LP; Paul, C; Bauer, A; Morgan, K

Published Date

  • 2008

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 24 / 3

Start / End Page

  • 450 - 465

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0949-149X

Citation Source

  • SciVal