Tornado project

Maddie Duncan and Kaitlyn Ford working on project.

CONNIE WOODARD

USD 413 public relations

Alison Morris’ third graders at Chanute Elementary School have been researching everything about tornadoes, from the storms’ effect on communities to the extent of their destruction and the role of storm spotters. For one of the girls, the project was more personal.

Prior to their research, the students read one of the popular “I Survived” books by Lauren Tarshis, about an 11-year-old boy who survived the Joplin tornado on May 22, 2011. That’s when Maddie Duncan told her classmates that she and her family had also survived that tornado. 

“In the story, the wind was blowing hard and so was the wind in mine,” Maddie said. “It was dark and quiet and the trees stopped moving.”

Though she was just a baby at the time, Maddie has heard stories about when the tornado sirens went off, watching the sky get dark and the trees go still before her family went down to the basement.

“My mom was sad because she lost her pictures and baby keepsakes,” Maddie said. In her room, the crib, changing table and the rocker were destroyed.

In fact, the tornado was the reason she and her family moved to Chanute. 

“Our house got ruined. My dad’s work got destroyed,” Maddie said, and they worried there might be another tornado.

The tornado in Joplin was an F-5 tornado, third grader Kaitlyn Ford said. “It’s the biggest a tornado can get. It’s very destructive, very bad and can kill very many people at once.”

“I learned that tornadoes are formed when warm air and cool air push against each other,” Maddie added. 

Working in teams, the third graders compiled more information about tornadoes, and put the facts into paragraphs for their teacher.

Ryder Holcomb and Jaxson Marple looked for stories about pets and tornadoes.

“We’re learning about a puppy that … broke both of his front legs and survived the tornado,” they said.

At another table, Gracie Mejia and Carl Anderson cut and glued strips of paper to create a timeline of the events leading up to the tornado.

The combined efforts of the students’ research and photos are now a poster on the school wall for the rest of the students at Chanute Elementary to see.

Kaitlyn said she hopes that other students at CES “learn something from it and spread it around to friends who spread it around the whole school.”

In a story she wrote for her teacher, Maddie said she’s happy with the friends she’s made in Chanute and that her family grew stronger from their experience in Joplin. 

“It has taught my family that tough times happen, but we get through it together as a family. We are stronger together because we are Joplin strong,” Maddie wrote.

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