Developing Hurricane Awareness with a Science Exercise for Students


The 2005 hurricane season was the most active in recorded history, causing billions of dollars in damage and resulting in thousands of fatalities. This served as a reminder that hurricane preparedness is essential when living in areas of the country where they routinely strike. A science exercise for middle and high school students can be used as a tool in disaster preparedness by graphically representing the force of hurricane winds on a house or other structure. This practice, which shares the Building a Hurricane-Proof House project, is from the Capital Area Chapter of the American Red Cross in Tallahassee, Florida.


There can be a lack of awareness among young people of the real dangers to homes when hurricanes strike.


The following steps were taken from the Building a Hurricane-Proof House project.

DAY 1: Design the House

The students' task is to design and build the most wind-resistant model house that they can, using the materials provided. The home must include at least 2,000 cubic centimeters, but can be any shape.


  • Two sheets of construction paper will be used for the main construction. (Extra sheets of paper may be purchased for 5 points to be deducted from the final grade.)
  • Four straws, glue stick, and .6 cellophane tape are provided. A styrofoam tray (turned upside down) will be used for the base only.

Team Work

  • Each team will design and construct the house together.
  • List the science principles and construction ideas involved in designing the hurricane-proof house on the construction team sheet (p. 2).

DAY 2: Build the House

  • Draw the top and side view of the house.
  • Calculate the volume:
    • Formula for volume for a rectangular solid or cylinder is area base x height
    • Formula for any cone or pyramid shape is 1/3 the volume of original shape
    • Formula for a sphere is 4/3 x pi x r3 (pi = 22/7)

DAY 3: Grade


  • At any time, unsafe behavior will result in the student being fired from the construction team. (Grade = 0%)
  • Students may only use materials provided.


Neatness: 10 points

Effective Use of Materials: 10 points

Use as many of the materials as possible with no waste.

Design: 20 points

Elements should include:

  • Top-view drawing (with actual dimensions)
  • Side-view drawing (with actual dimensions)
  • A list and description of the science principles used in the design of the house

Correct calculation of volume: 20 points (Minimum of 2,000 cubic centimeters)

How the house withstands the "wind": 20 points

Cooperation of the construction team: 20 points

From the designing stage to building to hurricane occurrence, all team members will cooperate with each other. Each will do his/her part to make the building a success.

For the team whose house withstands the most wind: 5 bonus points

To test the house, a leaf blower is turned on at 10 feet away from the house (a tropical storm), then up close (a Category 1 hurricane). The house is then exposed to the leaf blower from all sides. This is done because hurricane winds eventually hit every side of the house as the hurricane passes over.


Students who take part in the Building a Hurricane-Proof House exercise:

  • Are reminded about the importance of hurricane preparedness
  • Apply scientific principles to learning about protecting their home from hurricane wind damage
  • Gain experience in working as a team

For more information: 

Citations: Floyd, C. (2004, November 17). Re: Building hurricane resistant model houses [Electronic mailing list message]. Retrieved from

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