As soon as I started thinking about what to write for this blog post, I knew immediately to turn to my housemates. Everyone (except me) in the house met by going on an epic adventure to New Orleans during winter break of their freshman years. The majority of their time in New Orleans was spent at a school in the Lower Ninth Ward, Our School at Blair Grocery (OSBG).
OSBG is an important example of the ways in which the community of New Orleans, and specifically of the Lower Ninth Ward, has come together to re-establish their home in a post-Katrina world. The school is based in experiential learning, and focuses mostly on educating high school students, but clearly (since my house went there) also offers internships for college students/groups. The students of the school learn farming skills, that allow them to begin to sustainably grow their own food, in a neighborhood that is often referred to as a food desert (meaning no fresh food/produce is available). In reading through their website, I stumbled upon a paragraph describing their teaching method as "backwards design." In this model, every learning objective and activity is tailored back to an essential question, which for OSBG is "to what extent are we empowering at-risk youth to take leadership in making New Orleans, Louisiana the City that Ended Hunger?” OSBG is successfully helping to rebuild post-Katrina New Orleans, because not only does it provide survival skills to youth in need, it also empowers them to leave OSBG and bring the same ethos of backwards design to other parts of the communities that the students are a part of.
While OSBG is run by a teacher who is not from Louisiana, the program gives back to the community, and encourages the community to rebuild their home for themselves. This model becomes especially important in comparison to FEMA, and other federal aid attempts, in which local populations have little say in their own destiny. Through programs like OSBG, New Orleans can begin to take its fate back into its own hands.
For further reference and information: (there's also a bunch of newspaper articles!) OSBG's blog is @ http://schoolatblairgrocery.blogspot.com/