Akyüz talks with first graders about tornado safety
Many local first graders are less scared of tornados and more knowledgeable about how to safely react to one thanks to NDSU assistant professor of climatology and North Dakota state climatologist, Adnan Akyüz.
Since 2008, Akyüz has been visiting Kennedy Elementary School to help first graders understand tornadoes and develop respect rather than fear for them.
He said small children are especially vulnerable to fear natural disasters since they are covered so much in the media. “They watch houses being destroyed, people being hurt. It is scary even for adults,” Akyüz said. He tries to dispel fears by explaining tornadoes don’t cover a wide area at a time and aren’t likely to strike a certain house.
He emphasizes safe actions to be taken during a tornado, such as wearing a bike helmet. Akyüz says helmets are simple, inexpensive tools that can increase chances of survival while taking proper shelter during a tornado.
The part of the presentation that generates the most interest is a simulated tornado vortex using a glass chamber, boiling water, dry ice and a bathroom fan. “It always attracts loud ahhs and ohhs,” Akyüz said.
The talks first came about when Akyüz’s son was studying weather in the first grade. He was asked by his son’s teacher to talk to all first graders about weather and tornados/tornado safety. Since then, it has become a regular part of the first grade weather unit.
Akyüz enjoys working with younger students. He particularly likes the question and answer portion. “They always raise their hands then politely ask their questions which are usually very innocent, such as ‘what if we do not have a basement?’ then ‘what if we do not have an interior room?’ and the questioning does not cease until all parts of the house are covered.”
In addition to his annual tornado talks, Akyüz visited the same school to talk about floods during the record flooding of the Red River in 2009.
Akyüz teaches meteorology, climatology and microclimatology courses at NDSU. His research topics include El Niño Southern Oscillation impact on North Dakota’s climate, climate change impact on growing seasons in the Northern Plains, and drought assessment and drought impact in North Dakota.