How to talk about natural disasters with your young people


Irma Blog

Scouting can play a part in helping young people understand the world around them. Stories of Hurricane Irma and the devastation caused in the Caribbean have been all over the news. Young people may ask questions about the current situation and natural disasters, so we’ve provided some activities that you can use to help them understand the situation. These also link to the Scout Programme.  

Beavers: Tired Monster

A game to help Beavers think about what life would be like without electricity.

Suitable for: Beaver Scouts

Equipment needed:

  • torch

Duration: 10-20 mins

What to do:

  1. Bring a torch to your meeting and allocate one Beaver or adult volunteer to be the ‘tired monster’.
  2. Turn off all lights; the ‘tired monster’ must stand at one side of the room and the Beavers at the other. The aim is for Beavers to reach the monster without being caught.
  3. When the lights are off, the ‘tired monster’ is trying to sleep. Beavers can use this opportunity to creep closer. However, when the torch light is on, the monster is awake and the Beavers must stop as soon as possible – any Beavers caught moving are out. The ‘tired monster’ can turn the light on or off as often as he/she wishes!
  4. After the game, ask your Colony whether they found it fun. Ask them if they think it would be fun to be in the dark all the time. Explain that families affected by disaster may have to live without electricity for months and this is a situation they’d be faced with every night.
  5. Discuss what it would be like to live without electricity.

Cubs: Be Prepared

A selection of short activities about preparing for an emergency situation.

Suitable for: Cub Scouts

Equipment needed:

  • first aid kit
  • torch
  • batteries 
  • paper
  • pens

Duration: 20-30 mins

What to do:

  1. Brainstorm ways that you could contact people quickly in an emergency situation. 
  2. Follow this up with a game of Chinese whispers, pretending to send a vital message to a family in a remote village community. Explain that the message should be passed on quickly and accurately otherwise it might not save lives. Did the message get passed on in full?
  3. Using the items you’ve gathered in your meeting place, put together a survival kit that might be useful in an emergency (eg a torch with spare batteries, a first aid kit, etc). Discuss what you have put together with your Cubs and why.
  4. Make a map of your local community and devise an emergency plan. Consider evacuation routes, places to take shelter, places to store food, places to get clean water, etc. Discuss with your Cubs afterwards. 

Scouts: News Report

Turn your Scouts into a media team and help them discover more about a particular disaster.

Suitable for: Scouts

Equipment needed:

  • newspapers
  • paper
  • pens

Duration: 25-45 mins

What to do:

  1. Tell your Scouts about Hurricane Irma hitting the Caribbean.
  2. Decide whether your Troop will work as one section or in teams and then get the section (or teams) to create a news report that informs people about the recent disaster. Use the newspapers as a guide to presenting a news story.
  3. Allow a suitable amount of time for each team to create their reports and then get them to present them to the other teams.

Explorers: World Crisis Management

A simulation game where teams represent countries affected by national disaster.

Suitable for: Explorer Scouts

What you need:

  • pencils/pen
  • paper

Duration: 60 mins

What to do:

  1. Split the section into small teams of approximately four/five young people. Each team represents a country (eg UK, USA, Uganda) and team members take on the roles of different groups in each country (eg government, diplomats, industrialists).
  2. One team should take on the role of the United Nations and this group runs the game, mediating between countries in cases of disputes and updating the countries from time to time about the crisis.
  3. One country is subjected to a disaster specified by the United Nations (eg flood, famine, earthquake, tsunami) and the other countries try to solve the crisis by negotiating through the diplomats with decisions being taken by the government and using resources provided by the industrialists.
  4. At the end of the exercise, have a discussion about how it felt to be the country affected by the disaster, how it felt to be the country trying to help and how the United Nations group helped or hindered the efforts.

Scout Network: Government Crisis Management

A simulation game where teams represent the government of a country affected by a disaster. 

Duration: 40 min

What to do:

  1. Give each member a role (eg Prime Minister, Minister for Emergency Service, Minister for Healthcare, Minister of Foreign Engagement, Minister of Education). Give the government a budget they have to spend on the response (the actual amount doesn’t matter).
  2. In order to access government money, each member of parliament need to put forward their needs to the Prime Minister. They should be thinking about how their sector is affected in both the short term and the longer term.
  3. As a parliament they should agree on what % of the budget should be given to which section.
  4. After they have completed the game they can have a discussion about the reality of the current situation in the Caribbean and think about what they could practically do to support people affected by the disaster in the short term and long term.  

Throughout the activity members should be thinking about:

  • managing conflict amongst the team
  • respecting each other views

For more activities and information please visit the website.


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