Forces of Nature: Natural Diasters Portrayed in Art
A Units of Study

Have you ever experienced a natural disaster such as a tornado, hurricane, or flood? If so, did you feel that you were powerless against and in awe of the forces of nature? Despite our technological advances, people are still very much at the mercy of natural disasters. Throughout time, artists have recorded such forces in images that remind us of our shared human experiences. This unit will examine how the strengths and dangers of natural forces are portrayed in art.

Two major components of natural disasters that affect the earth and its people are wind and water. Water causes damage to the earth’s surface by way of erosion and flooding and eats away the land with colossal waves from hurricanes, typhoons, and tsunamis. Fierce winds from thunderstorms, tornadoes, and hurricanes can also be incredibly destructive. The artworks chosen for this unit depict such natural disasters and their effect upon humanity from the perspective of two different times and cultures. The artworks are Tornado over Kansas, 1929, by the American Regionalist painter John Steuart Curry, and The Great Wave off Kanagawa, 1831, by the historic Japanese printmaker Katsushika Hokusai. The Great Wave displays the destructive forces of nature in the form of tsunamis, a series of destructive waves of great lenght and duration. Note: This unit is designed for grade 5, but it can easily be adapted for other grade levels. It also offers an opportunity for team teaching and collaboration between the art and classroom teachers.

In this unit students will explore the two artworks in depth, write illustrated letters that represent particular points of view, and each make a collage that depicts the destructive power of a natural disaster from a human point of view. Other forces of nature also applicable for this unit include hurricanes, thunderstorms, floods, volcanoes, earthquakes, fires, avalanches, and mudslides. The images used in this unit are:
· Tornado over Kansas, 1929, John Steuart Curry
· The Great Wave off Kanagawa, 1831, Katsushika Hokusai


Forces of Nature: Overview of Lessons ..2
Lesson1: Tornado over Kansas ..4
Lesson2: Comparing Tornado Over Kansas and the Great Wave off Kanagawa ..8
Lesson 3: Making a Collage ..11
ART-O-GRAM: Write a Haiku ..12
Student Reproducible Page: Tornado in a Bottle ..13
Lesson Handouts ..14-21

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