Ninth Ward Annual Trip with Seventh Grade 2016

At the spot of the levee breach in the Ninth Ward 

On February 29th, the seventh grade along with five teachers boarded two buses to head from Patrick Taylor to the Ninth Ward to participate in service learning and tour the area. We began this project several years ago when the students were asked to read Ninth Ward by Jewell Parker Rhodes. After reading the book, we realized then that the students had little understanding of how Hurricane Katrina affected this very low area of New Orleans. Three years ago, we added a service learning component. 

Our first stop this year was Dr. King Charter School. It should have taken us 30 minutes to get there, but there was horrible traffic on the Crescent City Connection bridge crossing the Mississippi, and one of the bridges across the Industrial Canal was closed. It took us over an hour to get to the school. When we arrived, a third of the students entered the school library to meet the 1st grade, a third went to two kindergarten rooms, and a third left to go to the Guerilla Garden. This was the service learning portion of the trip. One of the ELA teachers has written a grant for the last several years to pay for the buses, books to bring to the elementary school, plants for the garden, and some art supplies for us to complete the project at the schools. 

Student actors in The Sneetches by Dr. Seuss
The first thing we do when we get into the school library is to pass out copies of The Sneetches to each 1st grader while the 7th graders find a seat at one of the tables and meet their book buddy. A group of students then acts out the story while a narrator reads out loud. The book buddies can follow along together in their copy of the book. 

When the play is over, the 7th graders and 1st graders read and write together. We give all the 1st graders a blank book which they can use to draw pictures or tell their own story. We bring pencils, markers, and Sharpies to use for this portion of the activity. We also share a snack together provided by Dr. King school. We are there for a little over an hour. 

1st grader makes presentation to me of a card they created for us

Mrs. Romero is the librarian at Dr. King school, here she is with one of her students

I wasn't involved with the planning or execution of the activity in the kindergarten rooms, but that activity centered around good nutrition and eating good food. The book that they read was Seuss' Green Eggs and Ham

Kindergarten class

Last year I met Jenga Mwendo who founded two non-profit gardens in the Ninth Ward. I thought that her gardens could be integrated into the service learning portion of our Ninth Ward tour. One of her staff members, Courtney Clark, met the students and teacher at the Guerilla Garden. We brought 15 students willing to work and flats of peppers, tomatoes, and eggplants. The students had an hour to clean beds and plant the vegetables. It was a perfect spring-like day of 72 degrees, and the kids had a blast. Courtney was a great teacher, and we hope to include this stop again next year.

Courtney Clark with the student gardeners

Students get their hands dirty 

As I mentioned earlier, we had to curtail our tour of the area because traffic was going to make the students miss lunch at school. We did get to walk around the area developed by Brad Pitt's foundation that is called, Make it Right. 

The Make it Right houses were designed by different
architects and pay homage to New Orleans style architecture

Some of our students stop for a quick pic before heading back to the bus

I always love this project and taking this trip with the students. Because the service learning portion was divided into threes this year, it took a lot more planning and logistics to get everything in place. Two different English teachers work with the 7th grade, and a third English teacher writes the grant that allows us to make the field trip. She runs around town to purchase a lot of the materials that we need, though we order the books online.  I do all the background phone calls to set the date and plan with our point people at the sites. It is a tremendous amount of work to coordinate with everyone here at school and beyond. I believe that this project is worth all the effort it takes to get off the ground. Without collaborating and dividing up the tasks, it would be impossible for one person to undertake. I am glad as librarian that I can work with these teachers to make this happen every year.

Want to know more about how Hurricane Katrina devastated the area? Use this Livebinder to watch videos and read articles describing what happened in August of 2005.


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