This Spring Break, I traveled with 17 eighth grade students, Mary Dobroth, Kelly Randall, and Mike Robertson to New Orleans for learning and service as part of the Global Education program at Holton. These girls grew in their understanding of the UN Sustainable Development Goals as they relate to the city of New Orleans and its rebuilding after the disaster of Hurricane Katrina.
To prepare for the trip, the group met several times and also read and discussed the well-researched graphic non-fiction Drowned City: Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans by Don Brown. The text complimented what we would learn in person through the hands-on activities and conversations with local community members at Anna's Place, Youth Rebuilding New Orleans, Geological engineer James Hance, tour guides on the swamp and bus tours and local artists. We embarked on a journey which took us from the struggling neighborhood of Treme to the wealth of the Garden District and Lake Ponchartrain areas, from above ground cemeteries to the bustling life of Jackson Square, from the modern sculptures in City Park to the natural beauty of the Bayou. I witnessed evidence of the girls' growth through their perceptive questions and each evening's reflections. The girls thought critically about what they had learned and observed the connections between the trip's varied experiences. They linked the goals of the trip to the UN Sustainable Development Goals of quality education, sustainable cities and communities, industry, innovation and infrastructure, and life on land. As the students observed the disparity in the quality of life for those in the new city, they compared it to the DC area and sought ways to both continue the relationships made in New Orleans and to forge new paths to remedy the injustices in their own community. Our girls linked the ecological changes that occurred pre-Katrina to the increased devastation caused by the storm and learned about current programs to reverse the trends. Finally, students reflected how they could use their passions to make a difference in the world. As Georgette Manos (class of 2021) stated, "This trip made me think about all the things I should be doing."
I cannot communicate in words how impressed I was by the students. Perhaps the best way to understand the development of their worldview is to read their own words as published on their evening blogs.
To paraphrase my fellow chaperone, Mike Robertson, "The most impactful thing about my trip - I watched 17 girls learn that there are so many 'New Orleans' in the world. Not in the literal sense, but there are so many places facing similar problems....To those 17 young souls I accompanied to New Orleans, you made a difference to the city of New Orleans, you made a difference in each others' lives, and you made a difference in the lives of the four adults that traveled with you."
I hope reading their comments will also make a difference in your life.
Middle School Librarian