Teachers include the recent disaster into classes, students take to material

Charlotte Traylor

 Nearly 7,000 miles away from the U.S., a 7.8 magnitude earthquake rattled lives on the Turkey-Syria border on Feb. 6. Catastrophic death and damage ensued, and authorities scrambled to restore order in the region.

The Turkey Syria earthquake was caused by the collision of the Anatolian and Arabian tectonic plates, horizontally sliding past each other. Many minor aftershock quakes followed, as the tectonic plates settled back into place. There is a great history of earthquakes in the region. In the past 20 years, three earthquakes with magnitudes above seven, and two with magnitudes above six, have affected Turkey and its bordering nations. While still recovering from the initial earthquake, another tremor was reported on Mar. 23 in Turkey.

For junior Dalayn Prieto-Akmansoy, updates on the disaster arrived with greater anticipation as her uncle and cousin live in Marmaris, Turkey, in the heat of the chaos.

“Luckily, my family was personally not affected by [the earthquake],” Prieto-Akmansoy said. “[But my cousin] does campaigns in school where they gather items and then send them to [refugee] families who are temporarily in the hotels in Marmaris.”

Mobilizing the nation has been necessary for the earthquake recovery, according to Prieto-Akmansoy. Even amidst the destruction, education is made possible for children from destroyed regions of Turkey by programs known as misafir öğrenci, or “extension student.” Many schools, including Prieto-Akmansoy’s cousin’s school, are offering scholarships for these students, and families are providing housing arrangements for the students.

Outside organizations, such as the Turkish and Syrian Red Crescent or Red Cross, have distributed hot meals and first aid kits and provided blood for the injured. Palestinian refugee camps are providing shelter for displaced families, who would otherwise be restricted to their cars in the freezing weather.

“The most urgent needs are shelter, health care and sanitation, food and water,” Jagan Chapagain, Secretary General for the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, said in an address in response to the earthquake. “People are also facing major distress — early access to mental health and psychosocial support is critical.”

Locally, the Turkish American Association of Northern Texas raised funds and supplies for the cause, shipping out baby items, hygiene materials and winter clothing on Turkish Airlines and Turkish Cargo. ESD may be hosting a similar campaign under the Asian Student Union, but details are yet to be confirmed.

In addition to proposed volunteer ventures, teachers have raised awareness by incorporating earthquake news into the curriculum. Eighth grade science teacher Scott Goestch teaches earthquake science, and this crisis happened to fall during their unit. 

“We learned about the damage and collapsed buildings from the Turkey earthquake,” eighth grader Mary Claire Zimmer said. “The information we learned about the earthquake made sense because of the other material we covered in the unit.”

Goestch explained earthquake intensity and aftershock in context to the current crisis, as well as allowing students to research this earthquake for their oral presentation on a specific quake.

“By covering natural disasters like the Turkey earthquake, students can see the need for fulfilling the mission of ESD, igniting lives of purpose,” Goestch said. “Maybe someone in our community will learn how to engineer buildings to withstand large earthquakes, discover precursors to predict earthquakes, lead or join a team to rescue or provide aid to the victims or help educate the populations of at-risk areas.”

Many students were first informed of the earthquake in school, which is relevant to raising awareness for the issue and support needed by Turkey and Syria.

“I was surprised that not many of my students were aware of the Turkey earthquake before I brought it up in class; only 20 or 25 percent [knew of the quake],” Goestch said.

French teacher Geradine Owens incorporated the pressing news into class by playing a French news report of a journalist stuck in the rubble. While learning about French media, students were made aware of the disaster. “We watched a video in French about the Turkey-Syria earthquake the day after the disaster,” sophomore Katelyn Hurt said. “I think learning about this event in class is important to keeping students informed.

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