What's the Plan, Stan? has suggestions for teaching and learning programmes for students in New Zealand primary schools. It focuses on emergency events and the effects they could have on your community.

Suggested pedagogy

Below are some suggestions for effective ways to engage your students when learning about emergency preparedness.

Revisit information

Link new information to prior knowledge and learning. Understanding how the science of natural events links to the social impacts in your local area creates many opportunities to create learning pathways.

Use the news

Current events help students make connections to their learning, enhance the relevance of new learning and tap into what students already know.

Find teachable moments 

As part of your school’s emergency procedures, drills will take place at regular intervals. Use these to grab a teachable moment, pulling information from the resource to understand and reinforce why drills are important.

Include all students 

Carefully plan for the needs of all students in an emergency. Take a team approach and consult and plan with teacher aides and parents, as well as the children themselves and their peers.

Use experts 

Every community has experts who can inspire your students’ thinking, provide information and add emotional impact to local events. You can choose to invite experts to the classroom or visit them at a geological site so that students are able to relate events to where they took place.

Use media 

Images, video and audio are a good way to introduce new topics and add to students’ knowledge about other people and places. They provide a prompt for students to share, discuss and question their ideas.

Take action 

As a conclusion to this knowledge gathering, students can take part in social action to show that they too can be prepared. This gives a greater depth and purpose to their learning and allows them to use new knowledge and skills and to explore these within a relevant context. Social action could include the following.

  • Create a school-wide event highlighting preparedness and emergency impacts.
  • Create digital or written materials for increasing awareness among the wider community.
  • Take action to increase awareness around preparedness and safety for vulnerable members of the community and pets.

Dealing with anxious students 

Discussing feelings and incorporating a mental health component in the school’s emergency plan can lessen potential trauma. After fire and earthquake drills, when some students may feel uncertain or scared about what has happened, is an ideal time to discuss feelings of anxiety.

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Find more information about preparing for and dealing with emergencies and traumatic incidents on the Ministry of Education website.

Links with the New Zealand curriculum

The New Zealand Curriculum sets the direction for teaching and learning in schools, outlining the values, key competencies, and outcomes that your school must take into account when designing your curriculum and the principles on which you will base your decisions. 

What’s the Plan Stan? aligns with the vision, values and principles of The New Zealand Curriculum. Emergency event education grows resilience and awareness and helps students connect to and participate with their community. In taking a localised approach, schools can focus on the emergency events that are most likely to happen in their area and spread the message of preparedness across the community.

Emergency event education fits well with the learning areas of health and physical education, and social studies.

What’s the Plan, Stan? has been aligned to The New Zealand Curriculum as follows:

  • What's the Plan, Stan? aligns with The New Zealand Curriculum’s vision for what young people should be.

    • Confident — resourceful and resilient enough to cope with emergency events.
    • Connected — aware of hazards, and responsible members of their communities through helping to reduce the risk of emergency events.
    • Actively involved — participating and contributing to the well-being of New Zealand by being prepared for emergency events.
    • Lifelong learners — making informed decisions to keep themselves and others safe from emergency events throughout their lives.
  • What's the Plan, Stan? encourages community and participation for the common good. It also promotes innovation, inquiry and curiosity by encouraging critical, creative and reflective thinking.

  • What's the Plan, Stan? is consistent with The New Zealand Curriculum’s principles.

    • Community engagement — it has meaning for students; connects with their wider lives; and engages the support of their families, whānau and communities.
    • Coherence — it makes links within and across learning areas, provides for coherent transitions and opens up pathways to further learning.
    • Future focus — it encourages students to look to the future by exploring such significant future-focused issues such as sustainability, citizenship, enterprise and globalisation.
  • Links can be made between emergency preparedness education and all five of the key competencies. In particular, there is a strong link to managing self. What’s the Plan, Stan? provides authentic, wide ranging and increasingly complex contexts that students need in order to be challenged.

    • Participating and contributing — contributing to class discussion; participating in group tasks, especially those based on preparing for the impacts of emergency events; contributing ideas and problem-solving strategies.
    • Thinking — exploring new ideas; making connections with prior knowledge; thinking critically about actions and reactions; being a problem solver; being able to analyse real and hypothetical situations.
    • Using language, symbols and texts — recognising symbols or words that warn of hazards, or represent those that help you; using clear language to describe a problem and its solution; creating texts about emergency preparedness for a target audience
    • Relating to others — showing empathy and care for classmates; working constructively as part of a group; demonstrating how to keep others safe as well as yourself
    • Managing self — acting safely and responsibly around equipment; dealing with a hypothetical emergency situation in the same way you would deal with a real one; showing initiative.
  • What's the Plan, Stan? can be taught in the context of a number of learning areas.

    Health and Physical Education: Safety management. In particular the emphasis on healthy communities and environments.

    • Level 1 (Years 1–2): Describe and use safe practices in a range of contexts and identify people who can help; identify and discuss obvious hazards in their home, school and local environment and adopt simple safety practices.
    • Level 2 (Years 3–4): Identify risk and use safe practices in a range of contexts; contribute to and use simple guidelines and practices that promote physically and socially healthy classrooms, schools and local environments.

    Social Studies: Conceptual strands — identity, culture and organisation; continuity and change. Especially with reference to belonging to groups and taking on roles and responsibilities:

    • Level 1 (Years 1–2): Understand that people have different roles and responsibilities as part of their participation in groups; understand how places in New Zealand are significant for individuals and groups.
    • Level 2 (Years 3–4): Understand how people make choices to meet their needs and wants; understand how time and change affect people’s lives.

    Science: Nature of science; planet Earth and beyond. Especially the strand planet Earth and beyond, which has a natural fit with modules on disaster identification, preparedness and recovery, specifically at Levels 1 and 2.

    • Levels 1 and 2 (Years 1–4): Students will describe how natural features are changed and resources affected by natural events and human actions.

    English: Listening, reading and viewing; speaking, writing and presenting

    Emergency preparedness education provides a context for an integrated learning approach across learning areas (mathematics and statistics, technology, the arts and learning languages) and is suitable for use in Learning Experiences Outside the Classroom (LEOTC).

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Visit the New Zealand Curriculum website for more information on the New Zealand Curriculum.

Engaging the community

What's the Plan, Stan? encourages community and participation to support better preparedness for emergencies. Schools are at the heart of the community and in some cases, they are Civil Defence Centres or Sector Posts. Focus your emergency preparedness and awareness on your school whānau and wider community.


  • What does the community want their children to learn?
  • What do students want to learn?
  • What perspectives could iwi or hapū bring?
  • Who are the people in your local community who are going to be able to help bring this learning alive for your students?

Encourage students and whānau to have conversations.

  • Where should I shelter in an earthquake, flood, volcanic eruption or storm?
  • How do I evacuate and where do I meet?
  • How do I prepare my home for an emergency?
  • Where are my survival items and first aid kits, and who is responsible for checking essential items?
  • How do I contact family members and emergency services?
  • What is the local Civil Defence warning system, and how will I know what to do?
  • How do I turn off gas, electricity and water at the mains?

As a school, you are in a good position to help facilitate community conversations about emergency events, preparedness and impacts.

  • Develop resources in community languages to help inform all the families in your wider community.
  • Hold a community night where the students can be the teachers. Present relevant information and practice drills and make time for whānau to work together to create plans.
  • Create a school preparedness team made up of students, whānau and a staff representative. Have this team do an audit of the school preparedness, gather together equipment or information for classrooms and help to make sure that every family in the school knows about the effects of potential emergencies.
  • Take your learning into the community. Create a travelling roadshow with your students that you can take to a local kindergarten or rest home. Ask to set up a display in the local public library or Citizen’s Advice Bureau.
  • Have a preparedness day at school. Each class can bring one item necessary for emergency preparedness, for example, water bottles or plastic putty to secure items on shelves. Set up the items in a common area like the hall, and whānau can collect the things they need to start a kit of basic supplies.

Keeping it local

Learning is real for students when they can make connections to their own lives and experiences.

Focus on local emergency events

These events may be pertinent to your area because they have happened there before, or because the geological features of your local area make it possible that such an event could occur. This gives students a greater connection to local landmarks and encourages communities to prepare for the types of emergency events they are more likely to encounter.

Learning experiences outside the classroom

Explore local volcanoes or rivers and use maps and photographs to identify the best places to go. You can draw on local knowledge and visit areas of interest with experts who know about them.

Share the learning

Students will be able to explore contexts that are relevant to their wider community. Your students can take on the task of helping to inform, advise and prepare the community outside their classroom door.

Using What’s the Plan, Stan? for years 1–3

What's the Plan, Stan? has suggestions for teaching and learning programmes for students in years 1–3, focusing on emergency events and the impacts they could have on your community.

  • Explore the impact of emergency events in NZ on the environment and people, particularly their whānau and community.
  • Investigate an emergency event that could happen in their local area and the scientific explanation for why it happens.
  • Take action to prepare for an emergency and lessen the impact on themselves and others.
  • Gain a broader understanding of the role of Civil Defence and the Earthquake Commission.
  • Participate in a programme that is relevant and authentic and that connects learning to their lives.

These learning experiences are designed to be adapted to your local area and school curriculum. Although you can follow them in a sequential order, the aim is for the learning to be student led, so the resource is designed to allow flexibility.

Find times for practising drills relevant to your emergency focus. Before the drills, explain why they are necessary and why each drill is different depending on the emergency. The time and frequency of these drills will follow school policies and procedures. 

Find lesson ideas for years 1–3

Using What’s the Plan, Stan? for years 4–8

What's the Plan, Stan? has suggestions for teaching and learning programmes for students in years 4–8, focusing on emergency events and the impacts they could have on your community.

Students in years 4–8 explore emergency events in a local context, covering the local and historical impact, the science behind the phenomenon, and preparation strategies and tips. At this level, students will have progressed from the understandings in the years 1–3 resource and will be able to look at emergency preparedness in more depth. 

 While the content of this resource is more advanced, the anxiety that students feel about the subject matter could well be the same. Advice on ways to help students overcome this anxiety can be found in the effective pedagogy section of this resource.

Find lesson ideas for years 4-8