Responding to the Earthquake in Turkey and Syria | Facing History & Ourselves
Picture of  Aftermath Of The Deadly Earthquake In Kahramanmaras.
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Responding to the Earthquake in Turkey and Syria

Use this mini-lesson to help students learn about who is impacted by the earthquake and what individuals, organizations, and governments can do to help.


At a Glance

mini-lesson copy


English — US


  • Social Studies


  • Human & Civil Rights
  • Democracy & Civic Engagement


About This Mini-Lesson

Before dawn on February 6, 2023, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit Turkey and Syria, with devastating impacts on the people living in the affected regions. The initial earthquake was followed by a series of aftershocks, including another 7.5 magnitude quake. This mini-lesson helps students learn about who is impacted by the earthquake and what individuals, organizations, and governments can do to help. An extension activity explores the choices people make in times of crisis. Each activity can be used on its own or taught in any combination best suited to your students.

  • 3 activities
  • 1 reading
  • 1 extension activity
  • Student-facing slides
  • Recommended articles and videos for exploring this topic

Before dawn on February 6, 2023, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit Turkey and Syria, with devastating impacts on the people living in the affected regions. The initial earthquake was followed by a series of aftershocks, including another 7.5 magnitude quake. 

The World Health Organization estimates that 23 million people could ultimately be impacted by the earthquake, with as many as 20,000 losing their lives. Millions of people living in the region had previously been displaced by the 11-year civil war in Syria and were already vulnerable before the earthquake struck.

Within two days of the earthquake, almost 100,000 people in Turkey mobilized to help take care of people and search for survivors, including volunteers from across the country and professional search and rescue teams from around the world. Distributing aid in Syria is more difficult due to the civil war, but local groups, such as the civil defense group known as the White Helmets, have organized search and rescue operations.

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Share the map of where the earthquake struck, which you can find in the Slides for this mini-lesson, and then read The Impact of the Earthquake in Syria and Turkey.

After you finish, give your students the option to write or draw a reflection on a sticky note and add it to a class graffiti board. The following prompts can help guide students’ reflections:

  • What is on your heart or mind after learning about the earthquake?
  • How can people take care of each other in times of crisis?
  • What questions do you have after learning about the earthquake?

Once students have finished adding their contributions to the class board, read or describe a selection for the class.

Tell your students that they will learn about a few examples of how governments, organizations, and individuals have responded or can respond to the earthquake. Ask students to watch or read the information, they should write down actions that groups or individuals can take.

Play the Washington Post video International help and aid arrives in Turkey, Syria (1:57) for your students.

Then, read the following excerpts from the NPR article, How to make sure your donation will do the most good for earthquake survivors, which gives advice on how individuals can choose organizations to donate to:

Start with due diligence.

Giving right away is important for immediate needs, says Ruth Messinger, a social justice consultant who formerly headed the American Jewish World Service. But, she emphasizes, "Never give to a brand new charity that does not have a track record." To find out more about an organization's track record, there are several resources, including Charity Navigator (which has posted on its website a dedicated list of highly-rated charities poised to help in the current crisis), the Center for Disaster Philanthropy and CharityWatch

Make sure the charity is situated to help in this emergency.

"First and foremost, prioritize giving to established organizations and non-profits that have a presence in the area prior to the disaster so they are ready to act," advises Amanda Morgan, Save the Children project officer for humanitarian private fundraising.

And whenever possible, go local, adds Cindy Huang, senior fellow at the Center for Global Development, who previously worked at Refugees International. Do so by contributing to either local organizations staffed or overseen by those in the affected areas — or to larger organizations that have a history of partnering and working closely with the communities and groups in the immediate area. "Established presence is more than just having an office in the country; it's established relationships with local organizations and the trust of the community," she says. Partnerships between local and international groups should be spelled out on the check the group's website or annual report.

Huang's experience working in previous humanitarian crises showed her, she says, "the critical importance of elevating local leadership in the response. Those are the people who will remain to rebuild and work to create resilient communities in the present and for the future."

Finally, read the following information:

Turkish embassies and consulates across the United States are accepting donations of the following supplies to fly to people in Turkey:

  • Blankets
  • Tents
  • Sleeping bags
  • Pocket warmers
  • Winter clothing
  • Over-the-counter medications for flu, cold, and pain killers

Then, ask your students to respond to the following prompt in their journals:

What is one action that a government, organization, or individual can take to help that you find inspiring and why?

When students have finished responding in their journals, ask them to share one word or phrase with the class that describes the action they chose using the Wraparound teaching strategy.

Ask students to create a concept map for the term healing in small groups. They should start by listing all the words and phrases they associate with the word healing. Once they have finished generating their lists, ask them to write down the following two questions on their concept maps:

  • What does healing look like for individuals after a natural disaster?
  • What does healing look like for communities after a natural disaster?

Students should use the words and phrases they wrote down to help them brainstorm answers to the questions.

Finish by asking for volunteers to share some of their answers to the two questions with the class.

Extension Activities

Many people respond to crises with altruism. Share the reading from historian and activist Rebecca Solnit Who We Are, Or Could Be, in Times of Crisis with your students. Then, choose a selection of questions from the reading to discuss.

Materials and Downloads

Quick Downloads

These are the Facing History resources that we recommend using with students throughout the activities in this mini-lesson.

Resources from Other Organizations

The resources below provide additional guidance for addressing difficult topics in the classroom.

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