What's the Plan, Stan? has suggestions for teaching and learning programmes for students in years 1–3, focusing on emergency events and the impacts they could have on your community.

These lesson ideas provide opportunities for students in years 1–3 to:

    • explore the impact of emergency events in NZ on the environment and people, particularly their whānau and community
    • investigate an emergency event that could happen in their local area and the scientific explanation for why it happens
    • take action to prepare for an emergency and lessen the impact on themselves and others
    • gain a broader understanding of the role of Civil Defence and the Earthquake Commission
    • participate in a programme that is relevant, authentic, and connects learning to their lives.

Stan with whiteboard.These learning experiences are designed to be adapted to your local area and school curriculum. Although you can follow them in a sequential order, the aim is for the learning to be student led, so the resource is designed to allow flexibility.

Find times for practising drills relevant to your emergency focus. Before the drills explain why they are necessary and why each drill is different depending on the emergency. The time and frequency of these drills will follow school policies and procedures. 

Before you begin

AmberBefore starting with these learning experiences, assess your students’ prior knowledge and introduce new vocabulary and concepts.

Your literacy programme, especially guided reading, can provide opportunities to see where your students’ needs are. Search Instructional Series or PM readers for books that you will already have in your school.

The difference between hazards and emergencies

Learning the difference between hazards and emergencies helps students understand the gravity of a situation and how they should react. Keep the examples and scenarios familiar and simple.


A hazard is a danger or risk. Often hazards can be recognised and removed before anyone is in danger. Familiar examples of hazards include, a floor that is wet from cleaning, toys strewn across the floor, and a table with a wobbly leg.

Discuss hazards at different locations such as at the beach, the park, at home, or school. Draw a classroom map and ask students to:

    • draw pictures of potential hazards
    • glue their pictures to the map
    • write sentences describing the hazards and how to deal with them (for example, we push the chairs in so that we don’t trip over them or bang into them)

Students could complete a map to show hazards on their way to school. What is the difference between your maps? Hang the maps side by side to look at frequency of hazards, and who can help you deal with them.


An emergency is a serious, unexpected, and often dangerous situation requiring immediate action – preferably with the help of an adult.

Talk with students about who responds to emergencies and the roles they play. Pay a visit to an emergency responder or ask them to come to you. It is particularly relevant if you have a member of your school community involved in the emergency services and/or if there is a volunteer service in your area.

What is an emergency event?

An emergency event that happens to a lot of people at the same time is sometimes called a disaster. This is a sudden accident or a natural catastrophe that causes great damage or loss of life.

Watch Natural Disasters, a video clip of still images of disasters that are suitable for this age group.

Stan with signAsk students to name emergency events and then focus on those that are classified as common in New Zealand:

These activities help students to explore what an emergency event is:


Write the 6 New Zealand emergency events on a strip of coloured paper.

Hang a piece of paper from the strip and collect student ideas in words or pictures – anything at all that they know, feel, or might see, smell, or hear if one of these things happened. You could write or print out their ideas, in text or pictures.

Each of these strips of ideas are great oral language or writing prompts to use throughout the learning.


Photo disclosure is an effective strategy for assessing prior knowledge, addressing misconceptions, and stimulating discussion and critical thinking.

Select photographs of emergency events to use in this activity.

    • Civil Defence Photo Library of New Zealand emergency events
    • pixabay has some free, reusable images.

Use blank paper to cover part of each photo. The part of the photograph students can see will give clues, but not the whole story. Ask students to describe what they think the whole photo shows. As they talk, gradually expose more of the photo. Throughout this process, ask guiding questions, such as:

    • Gisborne 2007 - damage from collapsed facadeWhat do you think the people in this photo are doing?
    • Where do you think this is?
    • What do you think is happening?
    • What gives you clues about what the whole picture may show?

Look at the uncovered photographs. Discuss the students’ ideas and ask the following questions:

    • What things are the same or nearly the same in all the photos?
    • Are any of the things you see happening familiar?
    • Do you think this could happen here?
    • What do you think might happen next?

Students could:

  • group the photos according to their own criteria, and display them for future reference.
  • Make digital stories to share with the community before and after school or on a blog. Programmes such as Voicethread can combine visuals with student voice recordings. 

Emergency Events - What's the Science?


 What could be the possible impact of an emergency event to people, buildings, and the environment? 

Setting the scene

The impact team.

Write the 6 emergency events on the board or wall, and provide the class with pictures of each event – before, during and after. Decide where each picture fits and what is happening in each one. Identify and discuss features of the land, people, and buildings. 

The I.M.P.A.C.T team

Introduce the students to the six impacts for emergency events (see Never Happens? Happens and the I.M.P.A.C.T team).

Explain that the I.M.P.A.C.T team are just like the students, and that they can have a big impact when they get ready for emergencies, and help other people plan too.

Explore each impact separately. Divide the class into groups to record their thinking in response to the following questions:

    • Imagine having no water for three days or more. How would you wash, cook, clean? What would you drink?
    • Trains and buses may not run, roads may be closed, and streets or neighbourhoods might be blocked off. What would you do?
    • Some houses and neighbourhoods may not be safe to stay in and you may have to leave home in a hurry. What would you do?
    • What would you do if the power was out for days? How would you see, cook, keep warm?
    • In most emergencies, it’s best to stay in your own home if it is safe to do so. But that may mean being without power and water, or any way to get supplies for three days, as well as possibly living in a house that is damaged. What would you do?
    • If the phone and internet were down, how would you keep in touch, arrange to meet up, keep up with news and weather alerts?

Encourage creative and critical thinking – students could sketch some of their solutions, or have materials like playdough, pipe cleaners, egg cartons and tinfoil to construct their ideas.

As a class, analyse the suggestions and try to pick out the ones that could be put into place quickly and easily. Then ask students to look at the What’s the Plan, Stan? homepage and see what they can find to help answer the questions – the superheroes will give them a clue.

Highlight one impact a week in your classroom for six weeks. Every week, students can design a way to share information about that impact with the community. Consult with the students about how you could feature the impact to get the most people looking at the information, and most importantly, how they can engage the school community in getting these messages across. 


What if …?

Revisit your impact ideas by playing the “What if?” game. Start by asking a question, for example:

    • What if there was no water?
    • What if your chimney was damaged?

Record students’ ideas, discuss what is realistic, and decide on the best solutions. Encourage the students to ask “What if?” questions too. Often they may ask something you haven’t thought about, but that is important from the perspective of a child.

This is a good way to find out how the children are feeling. Explain that it’s normal to feel scared about what might happen, but that the likelihood of an emergency event happening is very slim, and the best way to feel better is to be prepared and know what to do.

Remind the students that practising routines in a calm manner will help their brains remember what to do when they feel panicked. Practising both at home and at school will help them to know what to do wherever they are. 

Visual checklist

As a class, explore and discuss:

Ask students to develop a visual checklist to take home (emphasising the items like phone numbers that do not have a cost).

Challenge each student to spend a week or two gathering together the items needed and bring back the completed list.

Developing plans

Develop a plan and prepare for impacts as if your class were all living at school. What would you need? Why?

Challenge other classrooms in your school or local area to do the same, and share your work.

Follow up

As follow-up activities, students could:

    • design their own impact superheroes, or develop some more props for the I.M.P.A.C.T team
    • write about the I.M.P.A.C.T team using descriptive or creative writing
    • write a blog post, make a video or animation, or give a presentation at a school assembly persuading the audience to get prepared
    • write an earthquake-safe checklist for your home
    • write an email to someone at home, describing an emergency impact and what they will need to prepare at home (for homework, they can take pictures of their preparation, and send them back to class in a reply email)
    • at shared writing time, create a series of class blog posts that share the class learning and advice with your followers (for example, the students could write some “top tips” to share on their blog)
    • create a statistical survey about how prepared the school community think they are; work out how much water the whole class would need for three days, and then the whole school; plan a preparedness kit and price up all the items, working out how you could achieve the best kit for the cheapest price.


Stan flying left grey.

Share your learning from What’s the Plan, Stan? by organising an emergency impact day.

Invite whānau and the wider community, including the local newspaper, as well as other classes from your school.

Assign an I.M.P.A.C.T superhero to groups in your class for the emergency impact day. On the day your students could:

    • create a space where students can fill out an emergency plan and quake-safe checklist with their visiting whānau member, to take home
    • encourage visitors to practice drills and evacuation procedures
    • dress in the colour of their superhero
    • curate a showcase of their learning, with the help of digital tools like these:
      • KidsVid: A storyboarding tool that can be used to prepare for a movie or podcast
      • WebPosterWizard: A tool that develops web-based versions of student posters
      • Voicethread: A tool that combines visuals (photos, drawings, etc) with student voice recordings to make original digital stories
      • Wikispaces: An easy-to-use, free wiki hosting site
      • Bubbl.us: a Free, mind mapping tool
      • Nettrekker: A safe, educational search tool for students.

Virtual Field Trip - Getting ready for an emergency

Stan at work. Take a virtual field trip to explore the latest and best practice recommended for you and your school during an emergency.

This trip took place in 2016, however all of the resources are there for you to use in your classroom. Keep an eye out for more Virtual Field Trips supported by EQC and the Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management.