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Fostering Effective Discussions with the Teaching The Levees Curriculum
(by Diana Hess, University of Wisconsin)
In this article, Hess provides guidelines for helping students create and engage in powerful and effective discussions. Teachers should be prepared to inform students of the differences between discussions and other forms of classroom talk, set ground rules for discussion, and act as a facilitator. While discussions may be more challenging than other forms of pedagogy, the benefits of using discussion include improving students’ abilities to articulate their opinions and understandings, listen to others, and think through complex issues.

Talking About Race and Racism in the Classroom
(Adapted from Talking Race in the Classroom by Jane Bolgatz, Teachers College Press, 2005)
Classroom conversations about race and racism can be difficult. Often teachers and students–sometimes apologetically, sometimes angrily, but mostly unselfconsciously–avoid the topics altogether. When they do take place, conversations frequently remain superficial or simplistic. In this article, I delineate some definitions I find helpful to share with students, and then I offer some suggestions about how to prepare for and engage in discussions with students.

The New Orleans Hurricane Protection System: What Went Wrong and Why (pdf file opens in a new window)
(A Report by the American Society of Civil Engineers)
This report developed by the ASCE Hurricane Katrina External Review Panel provides a detailed assessment of what happened to the New Orleans hurricane protection system during Hurricane Katrina and the contributing factors to its failure. In addition to extensive analyses of the technical and policy-related causes of the destruction, the report also offers recommendations for corrections and improvements to the hurricane protection system.

A Family Preparedness Plan (pdf file opens in a new window)
(From Freedom from Fear by Gregory A. Thomas, Random House, 2005)
In this guide to safety, preparedness, and the threat of terrorism, Thomas provides advice on how to prepare and protect yourself and your family in the event of any emergency. This chapter encourages families to use an “all-hazards” approach to preparedness for both man-made and natural disasters, accidents, and emergencies that occur in and around their homes. Details are provided on how to become better informed of your surroundings, create a plan, and make an emergency kit.

Small Town, Big Issues: What the Jena Six Case Says about the American Racial Divide
(From Teachers College Record by Russell Skiba, 2007)
The charges brought against six black youth in a small town in Lousiana galvanized the nation’s attention and prompted national consideration of issues of bias and disproportionality in education and the juvenile justice system. Yet controversy in the case runs deep, leaving even many of the basic facts of the matter in dispute. This article argues that the different perspectives that African American and white observers bring to the story are typical when we approach the issue of race and ethnicity. Differences in historical experience have led us to interpret events involving race differently depending on the color of our skin, extending even to the willingness to talk about the issue. In particular, the central symbol of the noose in the Jena Six case has an important history that cannot be ignored. The sensitivity of community and national leaders to that history may be a strong predictor of whether such events remain isolated incidents, or become the first in a proliferation of further hate crimes.

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Teaching the Levees is a collaboration of Teachers College, Columbia University, The Rockefeller Foundation, HBO Documentary Films, Teachers College Press, and the EdLab