Environment & Service Learning in the
New Orleans Region - Alternative Spring Break
This course two credit course has two components. This first occurs during the first 7 weeks of the spring semester providing a background of the New Orleans region of the gulf coast which includes the study of the:
1) Physical geographic, and geologic environment(s).
2) History of the region including political history.
3) Cultures of the region.
4) Social and Environmental Justice issues.
5) The social and environmental impact of Hurricane Katrina.
6) Post-Katrina New Orleans and the gulf coast.
7) Creating a sustainable New Orleans.
The second portion of the course is a week long intensive community service experience in New Orleans through New England College’s Environmental Science Department and the Environmental Action Committee student club. This year the course will focus on the culture and communities of the gulf coast region as well as examining New Orleans as case study of environmental and social issues.
As an off campus program, students are provided the opportunity to experience first hand the physical impacts of the environmental catastrophe and sociological impacts of Hurricane Katrina on different communities in New Orleans. An important part of the experience is talking with residents including homeowners, children, teachers , church leaders, and community organizers about their experiences.
Students also experience the rich culture of New Orleans by exploring the French Quarter and the surrounding region that they have learned about in the classroom. Students learn of the history of the New Orleans and its culture and the unique physical environment of the region that makes it susceptible to natural disaster. Special trips are also taken to see not only the impacted areas of the city but also nearby swamps, marshes, and estuaries.
The goals of this Alternative Spring Break program include:
• examining the environmental impact of Katrina on the Gulf
Coast and its social impact on affected communities,
• identifying issues of environmental justice and societal
inadequacies and working towards their remedy,
• providing purposeful service experience that connects students
and community members, and
• using civic engagement to understand civic responsibility.
The community service projects have been done through the Good Shepherd United Church of Christ Community Recovery and Outreach Center which has coordinated projects with
1. Resurrection House of New Orleans working low income
homeowners on building and property reclamation.
2. Mary Queen of Vietnam Church helping to construct a
3. George Washington Carver, Jr. Elementary-Middle School
improving school grounds through landscaping and working
with elementary and middle school students in creating a
greener school yard.
4. Local homeowners who have requested assistance with
This alternative spring break experience was specifically developed to keep costs to students to a minimum for transportation, room, and board. Students sleep in bunk houses at the Good Shepherd Community and Outreach Center and share cooking responsibilities and the center’s kitchen. This approach brought 46 NEC students to New Orleans over two years. In the second year 10 of the students who had gone on the first spring break returned to New Orleans.
We currently have partnerships with the Good Shepherd United Church of Christ Community Recovery and Outreach Center and the George Washington Carver, Jr. Elementary-Middle School . Good Shepherd is involved in providing community support throughout the New Orleans region. George Washington Carver, Jr. , an inner city school that was relocated after the original campus was rendered unusable as a result of Hurricane Katrina. We are working with George Washington Carver, Jr. to develop a sustainability curriculum and projects that will engage both New England College students and the students from New Orleans.