Pick your topic

(“Devonian Light Show,” by John Vanveen, with permission)


It’s time to pick an essay topic! You’ll need to pick one of the natural disasters listed below. Once you’ve picked your topic you can of course adjust your focus and make it more specific.

As you pick your topic, it’s good to be a bit strategic. Do you already know something about your topic? How hard will it be to find relevant information? Do you have some books and materials on your topic at home? Have you had any experience with the natural disaster you’re interested in? The more you know ahead of time, the easier it is to plan and write your essay.


Please pick one of the following topics:

  • Hurricanes
  • Tsunamis
  • Earthquakes
  • Tornadoes
  • Droughts
  • Wildfires
  • Landslides
  • Blizzards
  • Sinkholes
  • Avalanches
  • Ice Storms
  • Sand Storms

You can also focus on a specific disaster such as Hurricane Irma or the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami. Here are some more examples:

  • Hurricane Katrina (2005)
  • Hurricane Harvey (2017)
  • Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami (2011)
  • Christchurch Earthquake (2011)
  • Haiti Earthquake (2010)
  • Tri-State Tornado (1925)
  • Yellow River Flood (1887)
  • North Sea Flood (1953)
  • California Wildfires (2017)
  • Great Fire (1910)
  • Ethiopia Drought (2017)

Another option is to choose a natural disaster that has struck close to your home. For instance, if you’re living in Edmonton, Alberta, you might research one of the following disasters:

  • Edmonton Tornado (1987)
  • Fort McMurray Fire (2016)
  • Alberta Floods (2013)
  • Frank Slide (1903)

If you’re interested in another historical disaster, just pass it by your teacher first.


Divide into groups and have each group pick a different natural disaster. Then write down on a large sheet of paper ideas about how you might write an essay on the topic. For example, you can write down questions you have, key terms you might need to look up, or specific subject areas you can explore. After each group is done you may repeat the activity for a different natural disaster. Finally, come together as a class and take a look at what ideas other groups came up with.

Tip: Try not to google your topic as you brainstorm. First see how much you already know.