JPPSS Community Partnerships

On August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina came ashore on the Louisiana/Mississippi
Student Art Work - Spring 2006

Teaching about Catastrophe Six Miles from Ground Zero

On August 29, 2005 Hurricane Katrina came ashore in Louisiana and then Mississippi, changing students lives forever. Over 1 million people were affected, many of them children. Children, who had their childhood disrupted forever. So how do you teach the children of the area about the changes that Katrina has wrought in their world?

A chance remark by one student, lead to an ongoing project at our school – the documentation of Katrina’s effects on the city just six miles to the east of our school.

Working in conjunction the English I teacher at our school, Dr. Rene Hall, students were assigned a research paper on some aspect of Katrina. Since at the time very few books had been published on Katrina, our only sources were online databases and the occasional web page. In order to prevent plagiarism, students were taught the use of digital note cards. The digital note cards were divided into three parts, the top part for bibliographic information, the middle part for portions of the article, and the bottom third where students were to write in their own words about the passage from the second section. Teenagers, being teenagers, resisted this project and showing the disdain for something not connected to their immediate world. After much discussion with the English I teacher, it was decided that a field trip to New Orleans might shake up these students’ complacency. On March 29, 2006, 25 students and two teachers took up a trip to New Orleans. They saw the 17th Street Canal Breach, the devastation of the Lakeview area, and piles of debris in every neighborhood they passed, the Industrial Canal breach, and houses with holes in their roofs in the lower 9th ward. They took over six hundred pictures and came back changed students. Some volunteered, but more importantly they spoke to other students at our school about what they had seen.
The Signs of New Orleans, March 2006

Work on the 17th Street Canal, March 2006