Students focus on protecting schools from hurricanes

They’re building model city to withstand Category 5 storm

ORLANDO, Fla. – This past hurricane season has shown Floridians firsthand how devastating hurricanes can be.

Hurricane Ian and Hurricane Nicole left a massive mess along our coast and inland.

Homes and businesses were left destroyed. Students’ lives were also disrupted as schools dealt with damage.

Now, students at Lawton Chiles Middle School in Seminole County are learning about what can be done to protect schools, homes & businesses from hurricanes.

On the latest episode of “Talk to Tom,” educator Ms. Naomi Gonzalez-Longstaff and some of the students from her seventh-grade design class talked about the lesson plan with News 6 Chief Meteorologist Tom Sorrells.

Ms. Naomi Gonzalez-Longstaff, or as her students affectionately call her, Ms. GL said, “The kids had a challenge and the challenge was how can they build impact-resistant structures in an urban and city environment.”

“We looked at eco-friendly design, recyclable materials, we looked at everything from doors, buildings, foundations, entertainment centers, schools — our goal was to create these structures in an affordable way,” she said.

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Seventh grader Preston Hong showed off his model, telling Tom, “We created the school of the future. It’s an innovative multi-purpose school.”

He said they addressed all the rain that comes along with severe storms by installing gutters “to divert the water off of our roof” and “an awning to keep students dry”. He said he also implemented certain building requirements to match the location for where his school would be built. Hong said it’s not just about safety, but being energy efficient “we also implemented the energy efficiency code.”

Seventh grader Lyla Ross says she created an impact-resistant movie theater. “We used a metal roof to help divert the water and keep it safe from any blast from the wind” and slanted it down so “all the water will slide down the roof instead of piling up and making it heavy on the roof.”

She said she also took steps to make sure movie watchers inside are not disturbed, “inside we put padding to make sure we don’t hear that awful sound of rain... while watching our beautiful movie.”

Students also showed off their work on everything from shops to emergency response buildings.

Ms. GL said the students had a budget of half a million dollars to build their structures and that they were judged by local leaders including engineers, the mayor of the City of Oviedo, and the Seminole County planning manager.

You can learn more about the competition on “Talk to Tom.” You can see the show every Thursday on the News 6+ Takeover at 5:30 p.m.

You can also watch it anytime on the News 6+ app.

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About the Author:

Tiffany produces the News 6+ Takeover at 5:30 p.m., Florida's Fourth Estate and Talk to Tom.