Geared Up to Give Back – The Hurricane Katrina Project

Throughout the course of the 2006 – 2007 school year the students in Gear Up’s ‘Geared Up To Give Back’ Edge Magazine Hurricane Katrina Project participated in a learning workshop series. In the series students learned about Hurricane Katrina first hand from people involved in the storm, it’s aftermath and related issues. The learning workshop series also helped prepare the contingent of student who would represent the project on a service learning trip to New Orleans.

In May of 2007 eighteen students from Asa Mercer Middle School traveled to New Orleans representing Gear Up’s ‘Geared Up To Give Back’ Edge Magazine Hurricane Katrina Project. Their mission was to learn more about Hurricane Katrina while helping in the effort to restore the city. They accomplished their mission and in the process learned more than they expected about themselves.

Each day the students began and ended their volunteer and expeditionary learning activities with socratic seminars. The seminars gave the students an opportunity to process their experiences and explore new ideas. The seminars also allowed the students to hone their public speaking skills. By the end of the trip the students embraced the semimars, journaling and sharing of ideas as a valued part of the overall experience.

Visit the project’s video journal page for a glimpse of what the students experienced throughout the course of the project. The essays, poems art and photographs that the students created for the Gear Up Edge Magazine can be viewed on the Edge Magazine Project page.


Project Video Archive:

Sandra Burton

As a part of our learning workshop series the students had the opportunity to meet someone who experience Hurricane Katrina first hand. Sandra Burton shared her family’s experience surviving Hurricane Katrina. The emotional connection the students developed to the subject as a result of meeting her drew them into the project and set the tone for the rest of the year.

Truc Nguyen

In preparing our students for the service-learning component of the project, a seminar was dedicated to volunteerism. It was important for the students to be able to connect with idea of giving back and Truc Nguyen, being a young Vietnamese woman, was the perfect role model. Nguyen shared her experience volunteering in the Vietnamese community in Biloxi, MS following Hurricane Katrina and talked about the specific challenges facing that community and how she was able to make a difference.

Disasters, Preparation and Response

A large of understanding Hurricane Katrina’s impact on New Orleans comes from understanding our relationship to natural disasters. Most people in urban areas have an under appreciation for the degree of danger and disruption natural disaster pose. In order to help the students understand how so many people found themselves trapped New Orleans and in mortal danger, three workshops were dedicated to exploring how a similar situation could occur in Seattle, what can be done to prepare and what can be expected in the aftermath.

Sunflower Seed Planting

Hosted by Hands On New Orleans and First Street United Methodist Church of New Orleans. The student learned how Hurricane Katrina is having an lingering impact on the city of New Orleans. They learned how the flood helped increase the danger of environmental exposure to toxins such as lead deposits in the soil. As a part of their effort to help the city they discovered that sunflowers pull lead out of the soil. Thus one of their main volunteer activities was the planting of sunflower seedlings.

Field Clearing

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina the quality of life for the city’s residents declined significantly. Hands On New Orleans helps residents with community maintenance and beautification projects.
The studentst took on the task of clearing a vacant lot that had become overgrown with weeds and bushes. The field became a magnet trash and drug use. By clearing the field the students learned something about themselves while helping to make the community a bit more livable.

Socratic Seminars

While on the service learning trip the Socratic seminars provided a time and place for the students to reflect on their experiences. As a daily activity based on AVID teaching strategies, the students kept journal entries, shared their thoughts and expectations for the day, participated in critical and creative thinking activities and engaged in discussion groups with adult facilitators and guiding topics. As the trip progressed the students began to see the daily seminars as a valuable tool for making the most of their experiences.