Creating coastal harmony in New Orleans

New Harmony High School
United States (New Orleans)

In the state of Lousiana, the coastline abutting the Gulf of Mexico is disappearing at an alarming rate, due in part to rising sea levels connected to climate change, along with the building of dams and levees (natural or artificial walls) throughout the area.

If these current land loss trends continue, Louisiana’s residents will see their three million acres of wetlands disappear over the course of the next two centuries, not to mention the impact the environmental changes will have on wildlife, as both native and migrant animal species will be forced to seek land elsewhere.

In 2018 the climate-friendly named Sunny Dawn Summers and a group of educators and environmental scientists founded New Harmony High School in New Orleans to prepare students for careers in coastal protection and restoration. A multitude of issues from the Mississippi levee system to oil and gas development have made Louisiana ground zero for coastal land loss. Anticipating a future with ongoing climate change and sea level rise, the school’s mission is intricately tied to the state’s future, and students work to find “new harmonies” in order to restore balance that has been lost in their coastal communities.

Each student at New Harmony is part of a small, 15-student learning community called an advisory. Each advisory is supported and led by an advisor (teacher) who forms a personal relationship with each of their students. They develop a personalised learning plan guided by their passions and interests.

Whether or not students are planning a career in environmental science, kids learn maths, physics and chemistry by viewing through the lens of climate change. Learning about hurricanes and rising sea levels lends a real world and local slant to the more traditional disciplines.

Besides the classroom work, students spend one day a week off-campus interning with environmentally conscious businesses and organisations in the community. Some plant trees or intern at sustainable restaurants where they learn first-hand about composting, recycling, ways to minimise energy use and avoiding the use of plastics.

AtlasAction: Learn more about this school on its website.

Written by

Oscar Marin, Atlas of the Future (19 October 2020)


Journalist and blogger, Oscar has worked as an editor for several travel, nature and science magazines for the last 20 years.

Project leader

Sunny Dawn Summers, Founder, New Harmony High School

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