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Planning for Inquiry and Drama

Written by Patricia Enciso
October 12, 2015

Planning for Inquiry: Imagining family in the wreckage of Katrina 

 Over five weeks, during a summer reading program, twelve middle school students and their teachers, Allison Volz and Gayle Benjamin, studied the events and decisions that contributed to the human disaster of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.  The teachers were able to purchase a class set of the book State of Emergency: True Tales of Survival in the Wake of Hurricane Katrina. This book was created by Sari Wilson to  provide an abridged version of two stories, A.D.: After the Deluge (Neufeld) and Zeitoun (Eggers).  Both stories feature adults and their families who lived through months of fear and uncertainty as New Orleans was turned upside down.   Wilson also introduces readers to the authors, Neufeld and Eggers, who describe their interpretation and storytelling process related to these events.  The book is relatively short, but the format, layered storytelling, and vocabulary are rich and challenging.   This book is also part of a series of books called ‘On the Record’ that is informed by  Alfred Tatum’s social justice inquiry platform.  During the first two weeks of reading, Allison and Gayle focused on the question “How do you work with other people to make a difference?”   In both their ELA and Science classes, the students were able to build a strong understanding of the science of hurricanes, how they are tracked, and how people and government agencies responded as Katrina’s havoc unfolded.

As students moved into more dramatic inquiry, they asked the more focused question: How did people living in New Orleans’ Ninth Ward pull together during the worst natural and human-made disaster in U.S. history? How did they hold on to their dignity and human rights?

We returned to both inquiry questions as students viewed images, read, reread, wrote, and participated in dramatic representations and performances of their learning.  

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