NLI Brings 21st Century Learning to Young People in Louisiana and the Mississippi Gulf
The devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina was immediate and tragic; yet much of the resulting destruction is still unfolding. For many of the region's young people who remained or returned to their homes, one of the most damaging long-term effects of the storm was the disruption of their education. With schools destroyed and teachers and staff far-flung, the educational system of the area had to struggle to revive itself.
In 2006, a few months after the hurricane hit the region, the New Learning Institute launched an ongoing program to support the renewal of learning opportunities for young people in Louisiana and the counties of the Mississippi Gulf. The first initiative was a series of four digital arts summer day camps that served more than five hundred middle school students from around the area.
Ideas for Rebuilding
Young people in the program were asked to write, shoot, and edit digital films that detailed their personal experiences in the days after Hurricane Katrina and then to go beyond that to detail their own specific recommendations for how parts of their towns and communities might be preserved or re-created as the region was rebuilt. To help them create these films, they were given hands-on training by NLI professionals in the latest mobile phone and communications technologies, including advanced editing software. At the end of the summer, copies of the student-produced films were donated to the Smithsonian Institution and to dozens of local Gulf Coast libraries. Some were also aired on National Geographic television.
Students at the Plaquemines Summer Camp watch their finished films.
Since that initial program, the NLI’s commitment to the area has continued, including digital arts residencies in schools in Bogalusa and Biloxi that were funded by a grant from the National Education Association. With a grant from the National Academy Foundation, the NLI held residencies at Gulfport High School in Mississippi and Sara Reed High School in New Orleans.
Also in 2006, the NLI partnered with the New Orleans School District to conduct two professional development workshops for over forty educators in New Orleans. Teachers and administrators who attended followed the same digital arts curriculum as students in an NLI classroom residency. They also received training in applying the NLI project-based methodology in their own classrooms.
In August of 2008, the NLI conducted a digital arts residency for incoming freshmen at Louisiana State University. The students were all enrolled in the BIOS program, a bridge program that helps first-year biology majors prepare for their studies at LSU. These students also created digital stories narrating their freshman year at LSU. They maintained these video diaries throughout their first year of college.
An Ongoing Commitment
The New Learning Institute is proud that the work begun in the months following Hurricane Katrina continues today. In 2009, the 2,000th Gulf Coast student attended an NLI digital arts residency. This work represents the NLI's ongoing commitment to the educators and young people of the region.