Virtual Classroom Presentation
Wednesday - October 18, 2000 - 12:00 Noon EDT

ARC's Masters of Disaster Curriculum for K-8

Rocky Lopes, Ph.D., Sr. Associate
Denise Brownlee

Community Disaster Education
American Red Cross National HQ

Amy Sebring, Moderator
EIIP Technical Projects Coordinator

The original unedited transcript of the October 18, 2000 online Virtual Library presentation is available in the EIIP Virtual Library Archives ( The following version of the transcript has been edited for easier reading and comprehension. Typos were corrected, date/time/names attributed by the software to each input were deleted but the content of questions and responses are as stated by each participant. Answers to participants’ questions are grouped beneath the appropriate question to facilitate meaning.


Amy Sebring: Welcome to the EIIP Virtual Classroom! Our topic today is the American Red Cross Masters of Disaster Curriculum for grades K-8, which is in follow up to the International Disaster Reduction Day theme for this year.

We are very pleased to welcome back Dr. Rocky Lopes, Sr. Associate for the Community Disaster Education Program at ARC HQ to provide an update on the implementation of this program. Rocky is responsible for interpreting social science research for lay-public use by designing, developing, and implementing Community Disaster Education materials and activities used by more than 125,000 paid and volunteer Red Cross staff nationwide, who collectively reach tens of millions of Americans annually.

We are also pleased to have Denise Brownlee with us for the first time. Denise is an elementary school teacher who joined the ARC last April where she has designed and facilitated implementer’s training for the Masters of Disaster curriculum.

Welcome to you both, and Rocky, please start us off.


Rocky Lopes: Hi! We're excited to be online with you today to discuss the exciting new children's disaster education curriculum called "Masters of Disaster." Acronym warning: for purposes of making this on-line chat shorter, we'll be using "MoD" to refer to the curriculum today.

We began this process by doing a thorough literature review, and discovered that no one else had developed a comprehensive, standards-based set of materials designed for teachers to use in the classroom throughout the school year. In fact, FEMA validated our literature review by doing a similar review of existing programs and materials in cooperation with the Maryland Emergency Management Agency during 1999.

So, based on discussions with focus groups of teachers from all over the country, we began development of lessons that help teachers meet requirements in academic subjects through teaching about the hazards. For example, children can learn how to plot latitude and longitude by tracking a hurricane. There are many, many, more examples but we don't have time for all that here!

Subject Matter Experts, representing FEMA, the National Weather Service, U.S. Geological Survey, state and local emergency management offices, Red Cross chapters, and many others advised us on which hazards we should cover. We selected, based on casualty data, to cover hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, tornadoes, lightning, and as the foundation, general disaster preparedness. And, based on teacher recommendations, we focused on developing materials for children in grades Kindergarten through 8th.

The curriculum was pilot tested during the fall of 1999 in 40 locations including Guam, Puerto Rico, and 23 states. More than 380 teachers from 90 schools participated. They returned more than 650 evaluation forms. The pilot testing was very successful and many teachers expressed great enthusiasm for the materials. Let me ask Denise to explain how it's working now that it's been released.

Denise Brownlee: MoD was released in June, 2000. We have had incredible feedback from our chapters, teachers, and school districts about it so far. As a teacher myself, I was always looking for materials that had practical, hands-on lessons that were flexible in design and time requirements. When I reviewed MoD, I liked that many of the lessons had creative ways of involving the entire family in the student's learning.

We held three interactive training sessions this past summer for school district and Red Cross representatives whose communities applied for and were awarded "Implementer's Awards." Teachers in Implementer Award communities have acclaimed:

"It's not a 'Program' that I have to teach from start to finish. I can pick it up and use it when and where it fits my schedule and curriculum requirements."

"It is very 'teacher-friendly'. Any teacher can pick it up, review it, and use it right away."

"It is very 'hands-on'. Materials required to carry out experiments are easy to find and inexpensive or free."

"Hands-on experiments reach children of all learning levels, so children of varied learning levels can work with and benefit from such experiences."

"The background for the teacher that comes with each curriculum section provides a knowledge base so that I feel comfortable presenting a hazard I am not an expert on."

"It is standards-based, and there is an easy-to-read chart for teachers in the front of each Lesson Plan book that shows which lessons support which standards."

"All we need to do is find local support to purchase the curriculum." Rocky will discuss that next.

Rocky Lopes: We were delighted to have significant financial backing from the Allstate Foundation for the development of MoD, and initial implementation. However, the Foundation's funding did not extend to being able to provide copies of MoD kits at no charge. Many of our local Red Cross chapters are working with organizations in their respective communities to raise funds to acquire MoD for schools.

In fact, the State of Florida Department of Community Affairs recently provided a major grant to the chapter in Tallahassee to provide MoD for every elementary and middle school in the state. More examples of fund raising success is in our "Curriculum Currents" newsletter, available on line at .

What we need to recognize, however, is that most good things start small. First, finding funds to order one set of the MoD kits (there are three of them that sell for $45 each), is a start. Let school representatives review the kits. Allow time for the school budget process, which can be a year or more in some districts.

Use PowerPoint presentations (available to all Red Cross chapters on our internal web site) to describe the curriculum and its benefits to potential local funders such as:

  • Project Impact Committees;
  • Retailers such as Target, WalMart, Lowes, etc.;
  • Local businesses that have a previous track record of providing financial support;
  • Local "adopt a school programs;"
  • Local philanthropic organizations and community groups (JayCees, Rotary International, etc.)

And, remember that many grocery stores have methods to support the purchase of needed school supplies by customers accumulating register receipts or purchase points.

There are many more good ideas about fund raising, as well as how MoD is working already, in our "Curriculum Currents" newsletter. The URL for that again is: ...

Denise mentioned earlier that we offered "Implementer's Training" workshops last summer. We will also be offered three workshops in Summer 2001.

In February, 2001, Red Cross chapters will be provided an application for 2001 Implementer's Awards (that include acceptance to participate in the training workshops) and a volunteer-led committee will select attendees. So if you're interested, please work with your local Red Cross and keep an eye out for the 2001 Implementer's Award Announcement and Application.

Finally, we wish to point to our Web site about MoD that provides lots more information and support for teachers using the curriculum. Be sure to look at

We can go on and on, but want to hear your questions. Denise Brownlee and Shannon Foster of our MoD team are here with me, too. Amy, we're turning it back to you.

[Audience Q&A]

Amy Sebring: Thank you both for that overview, and we can get into some more detail in response to questions. We now invite your questions/comments.


Carol Marie Dahms: Denise, are the MoD materials user-friendly for LD children?

Denise Brownlee: We feel the lessons are very adaptable to all students with special needs. They are, as mentioned earlier, very "hands-on" and this is helpful for those with learning disabilities.


Ray Pena: Does the program involve local ARC or emergency managers in any way, for example as presenters?

Rocky Lopes: Ray, there are some sections in lesson plans where local response officials are mentioned for teachers to call on to join the classroom in a discussion.


Cam King: Rocky, is there an address where those of us from outside the States might be able to obtain a copy?

Amy Sebring: (Cam is from Canada Rocky.)

Rocky Lopes: I'm sorry, but we must respect the jurisdiction of Red Cross societies of other countries, so we can not fulfill orders from outside the U.S. Sorry.


Carol Marie Dahms: Rocky, can we, as a local chapter, receive a free set to look at?

Rocky Lopes: Sorry, we can not provide free sets of MoD, even to our own folks. You'll have to order them from our central warehouse, GSD, like everyone else.


Avagene Moore: Rocky, are there any plans to compile success stories that may encourage more schools and teachers to use this material to teach life skills to our young people?

Rocky Lopes: Great question, Avagene. In fact, we already have done so, and have published those stories in our "Curriculum Currents" newsletter that is on line and to which I referred before. We still want and invite more good stories from everyone using it "out there."


Sue Hands-Renwick: Is the material really usable out side of a classroom, e.g. after-school groups?

Denise Brownlee: Yes, it is designed so individual lessons may be pulled and used for instruction. It does not have to be taught in a classroom setting.


Carol Marie Dahms: Denise, are the materials usable simply at home with families and not just for school settings?

Denise Brownlee: Carol, yes. In fact, let me mention that there is a "HOME CONNECTION" part to the curriculum. This is designed specifically for teachers to send home for students and parents. Relaying the message to home is very important.


Amy Sebring: In follow up to Cam's question, can he contact Canadian Red Cross to inquire?

Rocky Lopes: No, the Canadian Red Cross does not stock and cannot order American Red Cross materials. I have, however visited with my CRC friends in Canada recently, and they are aware of what we've done and they have copies. They also have some curriculum they have developed on their own which is similar to ours and quite well done. I can give you contact info later if you wish.


Fred Baehl: My question was also about contacting the Canadian Red Cross. I would like the contact also.

Rocky Lopes: Well, you can contact my dear friend, Don Shropshire, CRC National Office, at [email protected]


Cam King: Are you working with Don Schropshire in Ottawa? I was just going to ask you.

Rocky Lopes: Yes, same terrific guy!


Kris Passofaro: Will there be any additional material covering winter storm and fire safety added to the curriculum in the future?

Rocky Lopes: The grant from the Allstate Foundation limited what we could do to the hazards covered, BUT we anticipate receiving a grant from another agency (grant in process) and intend to create lesson plans related to winter and other hazards. One more thing, our colleagues at the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) already have created fire safety curriculum, and we have no intention to compete with them.


Andrea: Hi, I too would like to see winter storm, firestorm, and flood in future curriculums very important in the Northwest. Sounds like this item can be retailed for Christmas gifts. Yes or No?

Rocky Lopes: Flood is already in there. If you would like to order MoD kits to give to teachers on your gift list, please feel free. Contact your local Red Cross to order.


Ben Myers: Any tips on gaining state education department endorsement, or standard minimums that we must meet?

Denise Brownlee: A chart listing national standards met by lessons in MoD is located in the front of each teacher's lesson plan book. We are also in the process of having state standards aligned with MoD lessons. Those will be listed on our Web site as they are completed.

Rocky Lopes: And, let me jump in a moment on this one. Use these standards to show state departments of education how aligned MoD is with their standards. That ensures state "endorsement" (as has been done in Florida.)


Carol Marie Dahms: Denise, can MoD materials be bought by families? Can MoD materials be used by RED CROSS paid and volunteer staff for community awareness presentations also?

Denise Brownlee: Carol, yes, anyone can use MoD. We also have interest from home schoolers.


Avagene Moore: Rocky, is there a mechanism for teachers, students and/or parents to suggest additional materials or changes to some threat that is covered?

Rocky Lopes: Yes, we call that 'adaptations.' Soon a method to ask for adaptations will be on our Web site. It's not there yet. Meanwhile, we request that people who have suggestions send us an e-mail at [email protected] with those suggestions.


John Johnson: I am working with CAP cadets, Young Marines, and 4-H; does MoD lend itself to interest and recruiting for YDATs?

Rocky Lopes: For those of you not in the Red Cross, YDAT means "Youth Disaster Action Team." The MoD curriculum is not response-oriented, and really doesn't suit itself for recruitment of younger volunteers. The curriculum is oriented toward teaching academic requirements in math, science, social studies, and language arts, not in teaching people about the Red Cross. Sorry, you will have to do that another way.


Sarah L. West: Rocky: Can several teachers in the same school (same age group) use the same kit, or do they each need their own?

Rocky Lopes: It is optimal if each teacher has her/his own kit, but we recognize that, financially, that can't always happen. So certainly, teachers can share kits.


Carol Marie Dahms: Rocky, is there an instructor certification for teaching or presenting MoD materials?

Rocky Lopes: No, absolutely not. We have removed all barriers/ restrictions/ hoops on using the curriculum. We have LET IT GO. (This is a big issue for some of us!) Anyone who works with children can pick up the curriculum and use it.


John Johnson: The Civil Air Patrol has an AeroSpace Education program that also promotes math science and social studies. Perhaps there could be a tie-in there?

Rocky Lopes: Sure, using MoD with any education programs is a great idea.


Amy Sebring: Rocky, do you have any plans or hopes for the future regarding extending this to 9-12?

Rocky Lopes: We considered going to upper grades. When we examined the highly specialized curriculum requirements at those levels, as well as what already exists in the form of educational materials, as well as the funding we had available, we decided to develop materials thoroughly for under-served / under-reached populations (k-8). At this time we do not have funding to develop content for higher grades, but if someone would like to give us another $1M, we would be happy to proceed!


Rick Tobin: As a former teacher, I would certainly hope this was being brought to the attention of colleges and universities that prepare teachers so they could promote it as a curriculum to be used by teacher's during their "trial" period, or introduced to existing teachers in their in-service periods. Has that approach been taken?

Rocky Lopes: Yes, in fact we are already planning on exhibiting MoD at national conferences where teachers and teachers of teachers gather, such as National Science Teacher's Association, National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, and many others that I can't type quickly enough to mention.


Carol Marie Dahms: Rocky, is this going to be nationally advertised so schools and teachers and families are made aware of the MoD program materials or is it just going to be by word of mouth by ARC local chapters into their local communities? How will MoD be marketed in general to the community?

Rocky Lopes: The Red Cross as a nonprofit is prohibited from paying for advertising. We have provided marketing kits and tools, developed by our chapter in Chicago, to all chapters nationwide. We depend on our local chapters who already work with folks in their community to do the bulk of the marketing, as is the nature of our organization.


Amy Sebring: Regarding potential funding, I understand Project Impact monies have been approved in some communities. Do you know if any post-disaster hazard mitigation grant funds have been approved?

Rocky Lopes: No, we do not know if any post-disaster hazard mitigation funds have been approved. But it sounds like a great idea for our chapters in such areas to consider pursuing!


Carol Marie Dahms: Denise, are the MoD materials broken into many splintered fragmented lesson plans that could be used on a continuous basis throughout the school year in teaching plans?

Denise Brownlee: Yes, we call MoD a curriculum. It is not a program designed to be taught from beginning to end but rather taken lesson by lesson and used within the core subjects to teach standards.


Russell Coile: To respond to question about CAP, 4-H, and YDAT, NSF gave millions to Montgomery County to develop Junior High Event-based Disaster courses for Science. Also FEMA EMI has courses for CERT Community emergency response teams.

Rocky Lopes: Events-based Science, with which I worked, too, is like MoD. It is designed to teach academic requirements, not to recruit volunteers for response-oriented activities. CERT, however, can do that. So investigate that.


Kris Passofaro: Are there materials available in other languages?

Rocky Lopes: We are trying to get through implementing the English version first. We have not had much success with doing things in other languages due to exceptionally limited demand. However, we are exploring with our Funder opportunities to make take-home materials from MoD available in Spanish to use at home with families.


Carol Marie Dahms: Denise, as an RN, I was wondering if this MoD curriculum could be modified to be used in pediatric wards as special teaching for children to enhance their active participation in getting well to help speed their recovery?

Denise Brownlee: Sure. Feel free to modify it if you want to do so!


Amy Sebring: Rocky or Denise, do you have any future plans regarding continuing teacher support?

Rocky Lopes: Great question. Yes, as a matter of fact, right now, on our web site there is a teacher support section. Also as I mentioned in the opening, we will hold three more Implementer's workshops next summer. Get info from your Local Red Cross chapter (in the U.S.) in February.


Russell Coile: The University of South Florida has a Center for Disaster Management and Humanitarian Assistance are trying to get suitable material in Spanish. It is more than translation - it should be culturally appropriate.

Rocky Lopes: Yes, lots of stuff in Spanish remains available. Check out available resources on our web site at .

Final Question:

Rick Tobin: Is there a measurement tool in this process that records the actual changes in knowledge base, perception and "feelings" about the topic as a follow-up to the course materials? Say 6-months to a year after the materials are delivered?

Rocky Lopes: We are working with a university that has indicated an interest in developing evaluation materials as you describe. But we're still in development and discussion stages right now. Of course, that is my interest and I want to see that happen, if at all possible.


Amy Sebring: We are about out of time. Thank you very much for being with us today Rocky and Denise. We very much appreciate your time and effort. Please stand by a moment if you can while we take care of some announcements. Avagene, can you tell us what's on for next week please?

Avagene Moore: Thanks, Amy. I want to express my appreciation to Rocky and Denise for a fine presentation today. Thank you both for your efforts. Shannon, we are glad to have you here also.

Next week, Wednesday October 25, 12:00 Noon EDT, we will be in the Tech Arena with Ken Baechel, President of the Community Alert Network (CAN). Ken's topic will be "Community Alert Network at Los Alamos." You will find the topic interesting after all the news coverage of the fires in and around Los Alamos, and in other western states. Make plans to be here for the CAN session.

Amy Sebring: Thank you, Ava. We will have a transcript of today's session posted later on this afternoon, which you can access via the Transcripts link on our home page, and the reformatted versions either Friday or Monday.

Thanks to all our participants today. We will adjourn the session for now, but you are welcome to remain for open discussion. You no longer need to use question marks. Please help us thank today's guests.