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New Orleans Rising - Teacher and Parent Guide

  • "New Orleans Rising" is a documentary that depicts the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in one New Orleans neighborhood
  • Educators and parents can use this guide to initiate discussion with students about the documentary

CNN Student News -- Teachers and Parents: Watch with your students or record "New Orleans Rising" when it airs on CNN on August 21 & 22, 8 p.m. ET. By recording the documentaries, you agree that you will use the programs for educational viewing purposes for a one-year period only. No other rights of any kind or nature whatsoever are granted, including, without limitation, any rights to sell, publish, distribute, post online or distribute in any other medium or forum, or use for any commercial or promotional purpose. For licensing information, please contact CNN ImageSource at 866-462-4350 or

Special Note: "New Orleans Rising" is a documentary that depicts the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in one New Orleans neighborhood. The images and video, while not graphic, depict the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and may be upsetting, particularly to survivors of the storm. We recommend that you preview this and any video before showing it to students.

Program Description: "New Orleans Rising" is a story of hope reignited in a landmark middle-class African-American neighborhood in New Orleans devastated by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. In the ensuing years, Pontchartrain Park saw one of the lowest rates of homeowners returning in New Orleans. That might have been the end of this once vibrant community had it not called on one of its own to lead a charge to return it to its former self. Stage and screen actor Wendell Pierce became more than just a celebrity face. By surrounding himself with a cadre of experts, learning on the job, and winning over city planners and politicians, this accidental developer became Pontchartrain Park's greatest hope. "New Orleans Rising" is about love, loss, and home.

Recommended grades: 7-12, Post-secondary

Before-Viewing Discussion Questions: Use these questions to initiate discussion with your students before they watch "New Orleans Rising."

1. What types of natural disasters, if any, occur in your area? How have these events affected your community?

2. How might people in your region educate themselves about natural disasters?

3. If you had to leave your home because of an impending natural disaster, what items would you want to bring with you and why?

4. Why do you think that some people stay when ordered to evacuate during a natural disaster?

5. In your opinion: What might be the value of the ability to predict a natural disaster? How might this information best be distributed to the public?

6. What safety measures are in place at your school to protect individuals from natural disasters? How does the school ensure that students and staff understand safety procedures/protocols? What role do students play in these procedures, if any?

7. What kind of resources do you think that a region would need after a natural disaster strikes? Who do you think should be responsible for providing these resources?

8. What roles might you play at home, at school, and in your community in the recovery efforts of a natural disaster?

Post-Viewing Discussion Questions: Use these questions to talk about the program and to promote critical thinking after students have watched "New Orleans Rising."

1. Where is Pontchartrain Park? How do people in the documentary describe the neighborhood before Hurricane Katrina struck?

2. According to the program, what impact did Hurricane Katrina have on Pontchartrain Park and its residents?

3. Who is Wendell Pierce? What role did he play in Pontchartrain Park's recovery efforts?

4. How do Hurby and Lisa Oubre each respond to the option of rebuilding their home in Pontchartrain Park? Why do you think that they have conflicting ideas about returning? Why do you think that some people chose to return, while others chose not to?

5. What did Pontchartrain Park represent to the Pierce and Woods families? How was this neighborhood a significant part of New Orleans history?

6. How did Wendell Pierce become the voice of Pontchartrain Park's rebuilding effort? What challenges did Pierce face in obtaining financing? What steps did he take to get the rebuilding off the ground? What impact did the weak economy have on Pierce's plan to rebuild his old neighborhood?

7. How would you describe the pace of recovery in Pontchartrain Park for the first four years? What factors do you think played a role in this initial slow pace?

8. What recent disaster threatens New Orleans as it recovers from Katrina? According to former Mayor Ray Nagin, how is the handling of the oil spill similar to the response to Hurricane Katrina?

9. What criteria would you use to measure Pontchartrain Park's recovery today? What evidence do you see in the program, if any, that the neighborhood is recovering?

10. If a natural disaster destroyed your family's home, what factors do you think you would consider before deciding whether to rebuild in the same neighborhood? Do you think that you would want your family to rebuild there? Why or why not?

11. How would you describe Pontchartrain Park now, as seen in the video? Based on the images and testimonials in the program, what challenges do you think that the neighborhood's residents continue to face? What do you think that the neighborhood will look like five years from now?

Media Literacy Questions:

1. What role might news media play in helping residents prepare for and recover from natural disasters? How might you use media to communicate with residents of a neighborhood who fled from a natural disaster?

2. What do you think might be the benefits and drawbacks of broadcasting video and sound that detail the aftermath of a natural disaster? In your opinion, do news organizations have an obligation to tell these stories? Explain.

Learning Activities:

Disaster Preparation and Evacuation

Ask your students to research preparation for natural disasters specific to their communities. Guide students in their research with the following questions about evacuations:

What organizations are available to help individuals who have experienced a natural disaster? What kinds of assistance might these organizations offer? What is a disaster evacuation kit? What items should be included in a disaster evacuation kit? Have each student either construct a disaster kit or develop a list of supplies to be included in a kit and ask the student to share the list with his or her family.

Post-disaster Recovery

Guide a class discussion about the types of natural disasters that are prone to occur in your area. Ask students: What are the potential effects of these disasters? Next, have students consider how the community would begin to rebuild after a natural disaster. In class discussion, challenge them to consider what lessons could be learned from the disaster that could be applied to the new community. Next, have groups of students use butcher paper and markers to design a new community. Have each group present its new community to the rest of the class, pointing out the new features and elements that address any lessons learned from the disaster, and talk about how residents and businesses would fund their rebuilding. Have other members of the class identify what they perceive to be the positive and negative aspects of each redeveloped community plan. Discuss the elements of students' post-disaster plans that might be good to implement even before a natural disaster strikes.

Curriculum Standards:

Social Studies

III. People, Places and Environments

V. Individuals, Groups and Institutions

VI. Power, Authority, and Governance

The Curriculum Standards for the Social Studies ( are published by the National Council for Social Studies (