As Texas and Louisiana recover from Hurricane Harvey, and while several Caribbean islands and Florida brace for Hurricane Irma, it has been heartening to see so many people – celebrities and common-folk alike – step up to the plate and provide assistance to those directly affected by Hurricane Harvey. But as I see footage of the devastation, it occurs to me that Hurricane Harvey hit during the same time of year that many students and teachers typically head back to school. In fact, it is common for major hurricanes to form and make landfall during ‘back-to-school’ time. Some of the most devastating storms hit during this time of year; Andrew hit Florida (and later Louisiana) in late August of 1992, Katrina made landfall August 29th, 2005, then Harvey made its presence felt just ahead of Labor Day a few days ago. And while schools in Texas and Louisiana are now closed due to the devastation left by Harvey, schools in Florida are closed in anticipation of Irma.
This got me thinking…
…what can scientists do to aid in situations like these?
No doubt, scientists are people too, and thus can assist by donating money, blood, food, or supplies. We can also assist by housing those displaced by the storm or by traveling to the devastated areas and assisting in rebuilding efforts.
But with respect to schools, I presume that many school buildings have been left destroyed in the wake of Harvey. And along with the buildings...books, computers, Bunsen burners and beakers were also likely destroyed or swept away. Furthermore many teachers will probably need several weeks themselves to recover from personal losses, and it is possible some of them may be among the fatalities. So it is obvious to me that one thing that scientists could do in the aftermath of Hurricanes is to specifically provide schools in the affected areas with resources to get the science programs back up and running.
In the same way that there are ‘clothing drives’ and ‘food drives’ that compassionate people can donate to in order to help disaster victims, maybe we can have ‘science class supply’ and ‘science textbook’ drives. Perhaps scientists who are available to teach could travel to the affected areas and fill-in as substitute science teachers while the local teachers get back on their feet. Maybe science ‘apps’ or software can be developed that students can use to learn from while their schools are rebuilt.
Now it could be the case that such outreach activities are already in place, and I just don’t know about them. If they are, great (and please, send me info about them)! But if not, I think there should be.
Certainly natural disasters come in a smorgasbord of ways, and can occur at any time of the year. Thus my suggestions are not limited to late summer hurricanes, but could also apply to victims of earthquakes, tornados, wildfires, floods, etc. And though science is my particular focus, these suggestions to assist schools in getting back to their feet certainly apply across the educational spectrum.
I’ll just finish this post by imploring anyone who has not donated some form of relief to the victims of Harvey to please do so; you never know when it will be you who needs assistance.
-Dr. Boyd ‘The Chemist’