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Canada's Worst Natural Event

Identify Canada's worst natural event.

Outcomes References Related Resources

Suggested Activities

Students examine the impact of extreme weather events and other natural disasters on the Canadian environment, people and the economy. Be sensitive to the possibility that some students may have had a traumatic experience with a natural disaster.

Introduction to global natural disasters
Introduce the topic by showing photographs of extreme natural events from around the world, such as tsunamis, floods, earthquakes, forest fires, droughts and ice storms. Look for images that illustrate the natural phenomenon and the resulting effects on the environment and humans. Try a Google image search using general search terms such as "extreme weather" or "natural disasters" or more specific search terms such as "tornadoes" or "hailstorms." To present the images, consider using presentation software or a digital slide show.

Examining the impact of natural disasters
As students view each image, ask them to record their first response. Invite students to share these thoughts and feelings with a partner and then with the class. Discuss the overall impact of these disasters. Suggest that these events impact people and cities on a personal level (effects on people), economic level (effects on money and jobs) and environmental level (effects on nature) in both direct and indirect ways.

Introduction to concepts: Direct and indirect impact
Introduce the concepts of direct and indirect impact:

  • direct impact—consequences that follow immediately from an event; e.g., injury or death; loss of home or belongings; destruction of buildings and infrastructures such as roads, water mains, power lines; environmental devastation
  • indirect impact—consequences that come about because of the effects of an event; e.g., emotional and psychological effects that arise from loss of life or home; economic impacts; pollution or water infestation from broken water mains or expulsion of raw sewage; disease; increased crime; loss of power; food shortages.

As students look again at the images, invite them to note and discuss the direct and indirect impacts of each natural disaster.

Examining short-term and long-term consequences
Ask students to consider whether the impacts would have short-term or long-term consequences. Suggest that students may determine the consequences by analyzing the information; e.g., the event occurred on November 27, 1967; it took 20 years to rebuild the highway. Students also will have to draw inferences—make educated guesses about the consequences; e.g., all homes were destroyed in the flood; long-term consequences are emotional hardship, the need to find money to rebuild and refurnish homes, the need for time to rebuild homes.

You may want to adapt the materials in Web of Effects (Support Material) to structure and assess this activity.

Introduction to natural disasters in Canadian history
Select and present some of the top weather events or natural disasters in the last century. Describe the events briefly and include their personal, economic and environmental impacts. Here are some major events:

  • Montreal ice storm (1998)
  • drought on the Prairies (1930s and 2000s)
  • Pine Lake tornado (2000)
  • Port Alberni tsunami (1964)
  • Saskatchewan blizzard (1947)
  • Ontario's Hurricane Hazel (1954)
  • Kelowna forest fires (2003)
  • Edmonton tornado (1987).

An excellent resource for this activity is Environment Canada's website Top Weather Events of the 20th Century (see References).

Research a major natural event
Form groups of students and ask them to use online and print resources to research a Canadian natural disaster or extreme weather event. Students should include information on the overall severity of the event, the impact on people and the environment, and the economic repercussions. Students should try to draw inferences about the direct and indirect effects on the environment, people and the economy.

To meet diverse learning needs, provide specific events or disasters, such as Edmonton's hailstorm, or provide a list of categories that students can choose from, such as blizzards and tornadoes.

Rate the impact of the event
After the research is complete, encourage students to determine the environmental, human and economic impact of their natural disasters and to indicate whether the effects are short term or long term. Consider using these criteria:

  • overall severity
  • impact on people
  • impact on the environment
  • economic repercussions.

You may want to encourage students to determine their ratings using a chart similar to the one below.

Rating Natural Events

Overall Severity

(a common phenomenon)


very severe
(nothing of this magnitude has been experienced before)

Impact on People

(little hardship, discomfort or loss of life)


(significant hardship, discomfort and loss of life)

Impact on the Environment

(little or no damage/devastation)


(totally damaged/devastated)

Economic Effects

(little or no cost to restore/repair damage; few jobs affected)


very expensive
(will take millions of dollars to restore/repair damage; many jobs affected)

Present the worst natural events

Invite groups to present their choice of the worst natural event by using charts or presentation software.

Identify the worst disaster
After all the presentations, ask students to select, individually, the most severe event or disaster by identifying the event with the longest-lasting impacts—human, economic and environmental. Remind students to use the rating criteria and evidence to support their decisions. Invite students to share their decisions with the class.

Extension: Examine top 10 weather events
Compare and rank the severity of the top 10 weather events for the previous year as posted on Environment Canada's website (see References). As an alternative, prepare a top 10 list for the century by determining, by decade, which were the most severe events.

Last updated: July 1, 2014 | (Revision History)
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