The Dutch are Doin' It

Suffering the rains from tropical storm Cindy these last few days, and watching puddles cover streets, and yards become swimming pools, I'm reminded sternly of our need to adapt to live with more water-- coming from storms, rising from seas, flowing from rivers. The New York Times article "The Dutch Have Solutions to Rising Seas. The World Is Watching." showcases what happens when people really live with water.

New Harmony High international field trip, anyone??

Photograph by JOSH HANER (borrowed graciously from the NYT)

Photograph by JOSH HANER (borrowed graciously from the NYT)

Another Wakeup Call to Defend the Coast

Guest posting by Folwell Dunbar, educator, swamp lover, and friend of New Harmony High!

During the War of 1812, the British burned Washington DC and tried, unsuccessfully, to take New Orleans. The war was a wakeup call for the young nation. It’s coastal communities, from Portland, Maine to Mobile, Alabama, were extremely vulnerable to attack. The federal government quickly appropriated funds to defend the coast. Over the next 50 years, it built 42 forts, four of which were in Louisiana: Fort Pike, Fort Macomb, Fort Jackson, and Fort Livingston. (Fort St. Philip had already been built by the Spanish.) 

By the early 20th century, many of these forts had become obsolete. Most were eventually decommissioned or abandoned.

Today, Louisiana’s coastal forts look like Mayan ruins. Battered by hurricanes and neglect, the brick and mortar structures are slowly sinking into the Gulf. They are losing a battle against natural and man-made enemies: subsidence, erosion and climate change.  

They are not alone. Isle de Jean Charles in the ill-named, Terrebonne Parish is losing that battle as well. The town’s residents will soon become the first “climate refugees” in the United States, a dubious distinction to say the least.    

As with the sacking of DC, the loss of Isle de Jean Charles should be a wakeup call to federal government (and the world). Like Andrew Jackson* on the Île d'Orléans in 1815, we need to rally the troops and defend the coast!

*I’m pretty sure Old Hickory, Donald Trump’s hero, would have stayed in the Paris Agreement. 

Louisiana Forts

"We Water People"

Here is a beautiful 7 minute listen from Peter O'Doud on WBUR's Here & Now, A Refrain As Louisiana's Coast Washes Away: We're 'Water People. We Can't Leave', plus a short article, and some incredible images from Virginia Hanusik (who I follow like a hound on Instagram @ginnyhanusik for her eye on Louisiana).

There is something that's so haunting about the parts of Louisiana we may to lose without action-- the accent, the rhythm of speech, the way of life, the rich history, the things we can't see now that the long time residents have been observing their entire lives. I find it mesmerizing, could soak in it all day.

Photo borrowed from Ginny Hanusik's Instagram @ginnyhanusik

Photo borrowed from Ginny Hanusik's Instagram @ginnyhanusik

Charter Update & Superintendent's Support

Exciting news for New Harmony High in the article entitled "New Orleans superintendent recommends new charter school dedicated to coastal ecology apply to state, not district" published in The Advocate overnight thanks to the persistence of Sheila Grissett.

Oh, Louisiana.

Oh, Louisiana.

Dr. Henderson Lewis, Orleans Parish Superintendent, also voiced his full support for New Harmony High as we pursue the Type 2 charter with BESE. As per OPSB's press release today: 

“Per current state law and BESE policy (Bulletin 126, Section 503(A)(5)), any charter application seeking to operate in Orleans Parish has to first be submitted to OPSB,” said Superintendent Lewis. “New Harmony has complied with this process and I thank them. We recognize that this organization has a vision which extends to serving students and families beyond Orleans Parish, a sentiment that was echoed at our public hearing earlier this month by students from Plaquemines Parish. It is my desire and hope that through the BESE Type 2 process they have the opportunity to operate and serve students and families from Orleans Parish, as well as additional surrounding areas. We have committed to providing our full support to the New Harmony High team in this process and have already communicated with the state department regarding the nature and rationale for our decision."

Positive news for us and promising news for the students and families of Louisiana!

School in the Cloud

Image borrowed graciously from The New York Times.

Image borrowed graciously from The New York Times.

One of our founding team members of New Harmony High passed this video along. Onstage at TED2013, Sugata Mitra makes his bold TED Prize wish: Help me design the School in the Cloud, a learning lab in India, where children can explore and learn from each other — using resources and mentoring from the cloud. Hear his inspiring vision for Self Organized Learning Environments, and learn more at

I think Sugata Mitra speaks very clearly toward a vision we at New Harmony High have of guiding our students towards knowledge acquisition rather than bombarding them with direct instruction. He talks for about 22 minutes, and the stories are inspiring.

Get on with it.