Learning from natural disasters

In March 2011, a very powerful earthquake struck Japan and unleashed a tsunami that claimed countless lives and caused indescribable destruction. In response to this tragic disaster, Dr. Masami Isoda of the University of Tsukuba (Japan) and Dr. Maitree Inprasitha of Khon Kaen University (Thailand) teamed up for a project—Emergency Preparedness Education: Learning from Experience, Science of , and Preparing for the Future—whose aim is to teach students about mathematics and survival, using natural disasters as context.

Funded by the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), the project has two main targets: “to save school children during disasters with the use of visual materials and share the essential strategies of evacuations in the disasters; and to develop teaching materials using data which are necessary to scientifically understand the mechanism and influence of disasters.” Joining forces in this project are specialists from Japan, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei, South Korea, Vietnam, Hong Kong, the Philippines, USA, Peru, Australia, Russia, South Africa, Mexico, Singapore and Chile.

The project was launched in Japan in February, 2012 during the APEC - Tsukuba International Conference VI: Innovation of Mathematics Education through Lesson Study, Challenges to Emergency Preparedness for Mathematics. The specialists, which included NISMED Director Dr. Soledad A. Ulep and Mr. Eligio C. Obille Jr. of the High School Earth/Environmental Science Group, were tasked to engage in the activities of the following project phases. Phase 1 involved the sharing of experiences and scientific knowledge from experts with regards to earthquakes and tsunamis, and developing tentative materials for Lesson Study.

Phase 2 was implemented by the specialists by adapting the tentative materials in their own country and engaging in Lesson Study in their chosen project school. During this phase, Dr. Ulep and Mr. Obille collaborated with three helpful and gutsy Mathematics teachers of Sta. Lucia High School, Pasig City: Ms. Marilou P Fajardo, Ms. Rosario D. Tandoc, and Mr. Roberto LO. Santoyas. Ms. Juanita M. Jose, the Mathematics department head, endorsed the project wholeheartedly to the new principal, Mr. Gilbert Inocencio, who gladly welcomed it.

Students actively participating during the implementation of the lesson
done by Ms. Rose Tandoc
The results of the lesson study were presented during Phase 3 of the APEC Project, which involved sharing of the developed materials and revising them for inclusion in an e-textbook. Phase 3 was carried out in Thailand in September 2012 during the APEC – Khon Kaen International Symposium 2012: Innovation of Mathematics Education through Lesson Study – Challenging from Mathematics Education to Emergency Preparedness Education (Focusing on Earthquakes and Tsunamis).

In addition to the development of an e-textbook, the specialists were also asked to translate into their own language a booklet containing stories from different Japanese newspapers about the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. The translated stories will be used as additional reading materials. The APEC Project will continue for two more years. Next year, in 2013, the context for developing Lesson Study teaching materials will be on floods and typhoons. In the final year, in 2014, the theme will be on fire and volcanic eruptions.