Ninth Ward Project 2014

The Ninth Ward Project for 7th graders ELA is in its third year. It began in 2011 with the teachers reading the book by Jewell Parker Rhodes out loud to the students and has grown each year. Lisa Valence and I had developed such a technology rich unit with this project that we were recognized for it with an award from ISTE in 2013. We now even have a class set of the books provided to us by the author herself. Though Lisa no longer teaches 7th grade ELA, we have two new teachers at PFTSTA teaching those classes, but Lisa does serve as our cheerleader.

Open here for Livebinder
This year, I added a new component to the project. The current class of 7th graders were in kindergarten when Hurricane Katrina hit our area in August of 2005. The teachers and I knew that the students didn't really have a concept of what happened around them during the actual event because most of what they remember is just evacuating. So I made a pathfinder that I wanted the students to complete on Hurricane Katrina, the Mississippi River, and the Ninth Ward. I then used a Livebinder to curate all the resources for the students to complete the pathfinder including text, images, videos and audio recordings. You can find the Livebinder here along with the pathfinder. (Some of the resources come from NBC Learn K-12 and Gale databases, so you will need a subscription to these services to view.)

House untouched since August 2005
Each year of the project, we have taken the students on a field trip down to the Ninth Ward so that the students could walk in the footsteps of the characters in the book. This trip was getting expensive because our 7th grade class has grown and one bus would no longer get us there and back. Also, we make several stops on this trip, and we need to pay for each stop that each bus makes. To pay for this trip, Cheryl Bordelon, one of the other 7th grade ELA teachers wrote a grant to the Brown Foundation that included the field trip with a component for service learning. Cheryl, like Lisa, no longer teaches 7th grade ELA, but the field trip wouldn't have happened without her hard work on the grant and all the activities that she planned when we visited the elementary school in the Ninth Ward. 

Center of Musicians' Village

Documenting the Musicians' Village

Gathering on the corner to check out the houses
On the morning of March 26th, we boarded two buses and left school for an adventure. Each student was put in a group of four and was given the task of documenting in video and photography one of the trip's stops. The first stop was Frantz School where Ruby Bridges integrated with help of federal marshalls in the early sixties. The second stop was the Musicians' Village which is only two blocks from the school. We were running behind schedule, so I took the groups who had the Musician's Village so they could get some good pics. 
Make it Right Houses
Using iPhone to Skype with Van Meter in Iowa

A little free library 

The next stop was the area with the Make it Right Houses. It was here that we scheduled a skype in the field with 7th graders at Van Meter School in Van Meter, IA. We had skyped with this school on our first trip to the Ninth Ward, but unfortunately, last year we took our trip during their spring break. Tyler, one of my students took my phone and handled the skype beautifully. We walked around the neighborhood for about 25 minutes and shared what we saw with the students in Iowa. It really made a special element to the trip. The students all gathered for a group photo at the levee, and then my phone died, and we had to move on to our next stop. 

Class of 2019 by the flood wall near the levee break

Shannon Miller, librarian from Van Meter, posted the skype on Instagram

View of the students in the Van Meter library skyping with PFTSTA on field trip
Picture by Shannon Miller
Stopping at Martin Luther King Library and Dr. King Charter School was where we engaged in the service learning project. We went to the King school library where the PFTSTA students paired up with a 1st grader. One of the 7th graders read part of the Dr. Seuss book about the Sneetches along with a puppet show while all the students followed along in a copy of the book. We brought two books with us for every 1st grader to take home. Then we provided a journal for every 1st grader, and the big kids helped the little ones write a story to begin their journal. There were snacks for everyone before we left to continue on with our trip. 

Ms. Romero, the librarian at Dr. King Charter School and me

Reading the Sneetches to our 1st grade book buddies

Helping our book buddy write in her journal

150 kids in one room!
The last stop were the steamboat houses on Egania Street where the students walked up the levee behind one of the houses to see the Mississippi River. We returned to school in time for lunch.

Standing on the levee with the Mississippi River behind me
This was a jam-packed morning. To finish this project the students will use their photos and videos to create a product using their choice of on-line tool. We won't tackle this until after standardized testing. Open here to see examples of the products created by the students when we returned to school

Participating teachers included Maggie Grindstaff and Meghan Ritter who both teach ELA at PFTSTA. Also, Lorie Prouty, who teaches ELA at Van Meter School and Shannon Miller, who is librarian at Van Meter. Thanks for everyone who has collaborated and will continue to collaborate on this project as it grows. This is definitely a multi-man type of show. 


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