Design can help to anticipate, prevent and respond to natural and man-made disasters. Consider the buildings that shelter us and the clothes that protect us, the infrastructure that brings us water, electricity, healthcare and communication. This activity explores why Hurricane Katrina had such a destructive and deadly impact on New Orleans.

 
CURRICULUM LINKS

The pilot activity for this project was executed in a Grade 11 Physical Geography course. This learning object also links to the following curriculum, its related themes and outcomes:  Grade 12 Analysing Current Economic Issues  Grade 12 Canadian and World Issues: A Geographic Analysis  Grade 12 World Geography: Urban Patterns and Interactions

 

STRUCTURE

This activity can take place over 3 to 4 periods. Use the case study to introduce the subject of design for disaster and as an example of preventative design. The activity is appropriate for individual and group work, and for in-class work or homework.

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Design can help to anticipate, prevent and respond to natural and man-made disasters. Consider the buildings that shelter us and the clothes that protect us, the infrastructure that brings us water, electricity, healthcare and communication. This activity explores why Hurricane Katrina had such a destructive and deadly impact on New Orleans.

 
CURRICULUM LINKS

The pilot activity for this project was executed in a Grade 11 Physical Geography course. This learning object also links to the following curriculum, its related themes and outcomes:

  •  Grade 12 Analysing Current Economic Issues
  •  Grade 12 Canadian and World Issues: A Geographic Analysis
  •  Grade 12 World Geography: Urban Patterns and Interactions

 

STRUCTURE

This activity can take place over 3 to 4 periods. Use the case study to introduce the subject of design for disaster and as an example of preventative design. The activity is appropriate for individual and group work, and for in-class work or homework.

 

INTRODUCTION

Similar to problem-based learning, design thinking and the creative problem-solving process of designers are adaptable to many subject areas. They can be applied either as a means of enquiry, for example, as a teaching and learning strategy, or as the subject of inquiry, such as designing a brochure or temporary shelter. In either case, students employ creative, critical, and reflective thinking; they engage in research on the particular subject matter, and they analyse and propose responses while working collaboratively in groups. The real-life problems are human-centred and have social, cultural, and economic implications which, in turn, connect students with their communities. Because design thinking and the design problem-solving methodology results in multiple solutions, there is no one right answer to any given problem. Evaluation is based on depth of inquiry, insight, and critical analysis, and the breadth of creative and innovative responses. The learning process is self-directed and teachers act as facilitators and guides.

This project is delivered using the design process as a teaching method. Through Internet research, presentations, and class discussions students study the human factors which lead to the disastrous results of Hurricane Katrina. The assignment focuses on the issues which emerged in the city of New Orleans. Students identify the intersecting social, economic, and political factors which collided on the eve of the storm and continued long after it had subsided. Hurricane Katrina presents a complex case of misguided assumptions, inadequate planning, social inequality, and political ineptness that lends itself to critical analysis. Students engage in a real-life problem while developing higher order thinking skills and generating alternative solutions.

 

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

FEMA: Family and Community Preparedness http://www.fema.gov/preparedness/community_prepare.shtm

BBC News: In Depth: Hurricane Katrina http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/shared/spl/hi/americas/05/katrina/html/default.stm

American Red Cross: Hurricane Season 2005 in Review http://www.redcross.org/news/ds/hurricanes/2005/index.html

 

Personal stories and Eyewitness Accounts

BBC News: Have Your Say: Messages from Katrina http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/talking_point/4206162.stm

American Red Cross: Salvaging St. Bernard Parish http://www.redcross.org/article/0,1072,0_272_5028,00.html

American Red Cross: Like a Great Phoenix http://www.redcross.org/article/0,1072,0_312_5020,00.html

 

Statistics

American Red Cross: Hurricane Season: Fact and Figures http://www.redcross.org/news/ds/hurricanes/2005/facts.html

Climate: Mapping the Destruction BBC News: Science/Nature: Hurricanes and Global Warming - A Link? http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/4276242.stm

 

Images

Ynews: Katrina's Favorite Photos http://www.flickr.com/photos/ynews_photos_katrina/favorites/show/

American Red Cross: Hurricane Season 2005: Images of Heartache, Help and Hope http://www.redcross.org/news/ds/hurricanes/2005/photoessays.html

 

US Hurricane Response Key players

BBC News: Americas: US Hurricane Response Key players http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/4291082.stm

BBC News: Americas: How the Crisis Unfolded: Timeline http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/4211404.stm

 

Quotes
 
"But life feels a lot smaller. I've lost friends and family who are just not coming back to the city. It is not just me, it's everyone. We are here, but it still feels like a disaster."

BBC News: Americas: Katrina Victims - Where are they Now? http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/4488134.stm

 
Referring to a newly created trailer park: "It is better than a shelter at least. It's me and my kids. At the river centre I was with 1,000 other people," she said.

BBC News: Americas: Trailer Towns' Uncertain Future http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/4481080.stm

 

Additional Articles

BBC News: Programmes: This World: The Hurricane that shook America http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/this_world/4317752.stm

BBC News: Americas: Concern Over Urban Disaster http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/4286738.stm

 

ACTIVITY GUIDELINES


GROUP 1 THE LEVEE SYSTEM

"Much of New Orleans lies below sea level. The city has a system of canals and levees topped with concrete floodwalls to keep water out. These are designed to withstand a category three hurricane, but when Katrina - a category four storm - hit, they were quickly overwhelmed. Within 24 hours, 80% of the city was flooded."

Source:

BBC News: Americas: Hurricane Katrina: Mapping the Destruction http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/shared/spl/hi/americas/05/katrina/html/leveerepairs.stm

More information:

BBC News: Americas: Hurricane Katrina: Fixing Americas thin grey line Source: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/4307972.stm

 
Assignment:

Using the Internet, research the history of New Orleans? levee system and identify the issues that hurricane Katrina raised. Your research will answer the question: why was New Orleans so vulnerable in a direct hit from a hurricane?

 
Consider the following:

  • Why does New Orleans need a levee system?
  • When were they originally built and by what organization?
  • What research existed and what knowledge did the various authorities have about the pre-hurricane condition of the levies?
  • What was the capacity of the levies to withstand a hurricane?

Include direct quotes from officials in your response. Assemble your research findings in a presentation to your classmates. Develop some questions of your own that emerge from your inquiry. Following your group presentation, the class will engage in a problem-solving brainstorming session to conclude this assignment. Prepare for this activity by considering what steps might have been taken by authorities to prevent this crisis.

 
Group 2 THE EVACUATION PLANS

"The breakdown of the relief operation in New Orleans was the result of multiple failures by city, state and federal authorities. There was no one cause. The failures began long before the hurricane with a gamble that a Category Four or Five hurricane would not strike New Orleans. They continued with an inadequate evacuation plan and culminated in a relief effort hampered by lack of planning, supplies and manpower, and a breakdown in communications of the most basic sort. On top of all this, there is the question of whether an earlier intervention by President Bush could have made a big difference."

 
Source:

BBC News: Americas: Multiple Errors Caused Relief Crisis http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/4216508.stm

 

Assignment:

Using the Internet, research the evacuation plans made by local, state and federal authorities.

Consider the following questions:

  • Why did some people leave the city and others stay?
  • How much advance warning did officials have in order to put a plan into effect? Describe the plans and how well they were executed.
  • Who were the key players in this story and what actions did they take?


Assemble your research findings in a presentation to your classmates. Develop some questions of your own that emerge from your inquiry. Following your group presentation, the class will engage in a problem-solving brainstorming session to conclude this assignment. Prepare for this activity by considering what steps might have been taken by authorities to prevent this crisis.

 
Group 3 EYE WITNESS STORIES

"I don't even know how to explain how bad it is down here for those of you who aren't here. It's just unreal that so many people are here in Houston, and it seemed like the Red Cross was unprepared for the onslaught of refugees, even though they knew ahead of time they were coming. Well, I was watching the news Thursday night as more than 100 buses were headed to the Astrodome from New Orleans, and it seemed like all hell was breaking loose. With about 60 people on each bus, that meant that about 6,000 people would need to be processed, registered, and settled into the Astrodome"

 
Source:

WebMD: Real Stories: Physicians Report from the Astrodome http://www.webmd.com/content/pages/23/109940.htm

More stories:

BBC News: Americas: Hurricane Katrina: Readers' Experiences http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/4200608.stm

 

Assignment:

Using the Internet, research other stories from people who survived the hurricane. Include experiences of people after the storm and how they are rebuilding their lives. What do these experiences tell you about human nature? If you were designing a survival kit, what would you include in it?

 Assemble your research findings in a presentation to your classmates. Develop some questions of your own that emerge from your inquiry. Prepare a presentation to your class illustrating the human side to this story. Following your group presentation, the class will engage in a problem-solving brainstorming session to conclude this assignment. Prepare for this activity by considering what steps might have been taken by authorities to prevent this crisis.

 

Group 4 DESIGN SOLUTIONS

Using the Internet, research the following disaster relief aids:


The Lifestraw

This was originally conceived by Torben Vestergaard Frandsen, a textile company from Denmark.

Index: Design to Improve Life: Lifestraw http://www.index2005.dk/Members/dafude/bodyObject

Zip Shelter Index: Design to Improve Life: Zip Shelter http://www.index2005.dk/Members/mimade/communityObject#

 

Assignment:

Using the Internet, research other examples of emergency shelter designs, and disaster relief aids. If time permits, design a temporary shelter to house a family. Consider the climate, terrain, and needs of the occupants.

Present your findings to the class. Assemble your research findings in a presentation to your classmates. Develop some questions of your own that emerge from your inquiry. Following your group presentation, the class will engage in a problem-solving brainstorming session to conclude this assignment. Prepare for this activity by considering what steps might have been taken by authorities to prevent this crisis.

 

GUIDELINES FOR THE BRAINSTORMING ACTIVITY


Brainstorming is an idea-generating activity used by designers and others to produce as many results as possible in a short period of time. Ideas flow and build on each other. Ideas that seem outlandish in the moment may hold some validity and can spark other thoughts. It is important to refrain from analysis until the activity is over. Criticism during the process will stifle creative thinking.

 
ACTIVITY RESULTS

The pilot activity for this project was executed in a Grade 11 Physical Geography course. Students enjoyed working together and found that discussions within their groups and with the entire class "helped to learn faster." Students presented their assignments using Power Point and found that visual images helped to illustrate their points and communicate their content to the listener. Students commented that they found it difficult to access information about their specific topics on the Internet. They also felt they did not have enough time to adequately complete their assignments.

Canadian Forces Disaster Assistance Response Team http://www.forces.gc.ca/site/Newsroom/view_news_e.asp?id=301

 
The Real Impact of Natural Disasters

Abbott, Patrick L. Natural disasters. 5th ed. Boston: McGraw-Hill Higher Education, 2006.

Bankoff, Greg, Georg Frerks and Dorothea Hilhorst ed. Mapping vulnerability: disasters, development, and people. Sterling, VA: Earthscan Publications, 2004.

Blaikie, Piers et. al. At Risk: Natural Hazards, People's Vulnerability and Disasters. New York: Routledge, 1994.

 
Contending with Nature: Natural Disasters and Architecture

Ambrose, James E. Design for earthquakes. New York: John Wiley, 1999.

Ban, Shigeru. Shigeru Ban. New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2001.

Coburn, Andrew. Earthquake protection. New York: J. Wiley, 1992.

McDonald, Roxanna. Introduction to natural and man-made disasters and their effects on buildings. Boston: Architectural Press, 2003.

 

A Canadian Story

Government of Québec. Facing the unforeseeable: lessons from the ice storm. Commission scientifique et technique chargée d'analyser les évènements relatifs à la tempête de verglas survenue du 5 au 9 janvier 1998. Québec: The Commission, 1999.

 
RESOURCES ABOUT TEACHING DESIGN

Owen-Jackson, G. (2002). Teaching design and technology in secondary schools. A reader. London: Routledge/Falmer.

Owen-Jackson, G. (2002). Aspects of teaching secondary design and technology. Perspectives on practice. London: Routledge/Falmer.


© 2006, Design Exchange. All Rights Reserved.

Students made presentations about their findings and suggestions on how the crisis in New Orleans might have been prevented.

After several class periods of research and group work, students made presentations about their findings and suggestions on how the crisis in New Orleans might have been prevented. Grade 11 Physical Geography course, Northern Secondary School, Toronto, Ontario

Qasim Virjee
Heather Whitton, Dan Dominico, Grade 11 Physical Geography Class at Northern Secondary School students
March 2006
CANADA Toronto Region, Ontario, Toronto Region, CANADA
© 2006, Design Exchange. All Rights Reserved.


Learning Objectives

Students gain an understanding of how the international community responds to natural and man-made disasters. They research political, economic, and geographic factors contributing to human and environmental devastation. Students explore design innovations that respond to human needs in dangerous situations, natural disasters, and in a variety of climates. Applying the design process through research and collaborative problem-solving, they engage multiple learning styles and cognitive skills; practice planning, organization, and interpersonal skills through group work; use current technology to research the problem, and develop language and aural speaking skills when presenting their final solutions.

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