Initial Publication Date: May 27, 2006

Hurricane Katrina Role Playing Activity

This exercise was modified from Erin Klauk's Navajo Nation Role Playing Activity. It was designed by Laurie Cantwell as part of the DLESE Community Services Project: Integrating Research in Education.


New Orleans after breach of 17th Street Canal. Breach is shown in white. Details

Hurricane Katrina affected 80% of New Orleans causing nearly $80 billion in damages. Much of the damage was caused by the storm surge and levee breaks between New Orleans and Lake Pontchartrain. Following the destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina, politicians, scientists, the media and residents of New Orleans are talking about what's next for New Orleans.

How should New Orleans be rebuilt? 

In this activity, you will use the Hurricane Katrina Information Pages to explore this issue and address the question of rebuilding New Orleans. Make sure you Understand Katrina before you get started!


Students will be divided into 5 groups representing:

  1. Army Corps of Engineers/city planners
  2. Consulting geologists
  3. Consulting climatologists
  4. City officials and representatives.
  5. Ninth Ward residents

Each group will take about forty minutes to find information on this website pertaining to their assigned roles. In the next ten minutes, each group will decide on the essential evidence that informs their point of view (at least five key points) making sure to address the above question. Next, each group will have five minutes to report their information to the class. Each person should complete the activity worksheet with the key points about what is particularly interesting and/or important about each topic covered (these can be handed in). The class can end with a general discussion about the overall issue of rebuilding New Orleans and the best way in which rebuilding should be done.

Group One

Army Corps of Engineers/City Planners: Be sure to explore the Mississippi River and Delta, the physiography and the human impacts and development as well as the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Ask yourselves if it is possible to re-engineer the Mississippi to make New Orleans safer from flooding? What are the impacts of engineering a system to help rebuild New Orleans? What are the risks?

Group Two

Consulting Geologists: Be sure to look into the physiography, Mississippi River and Delta, and human impacts and development. What is the general geologic setting? How does the geologic setting impact human development? How do these factors inform you about the ways in which New Orleans should be rebuilt?

Group Three

Consulting Climatologists: Be sure to look into the Gulf Coast climate and hurricanes and hurricane history. How does understanding the climate affect decisions about rebuilding New Orleans? What considerations should you take into account about future hurricane risks to the rebuilt New Orleans?

Group Four

City Officials and Reprentatives: All the topics will be helpful for your group. Be sure to look at the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, human impacts and development, and consider some of the policy issues related to rebuilding. How can you apply scientific information to mindfully rebuilding New Orleans?

Group Five

Ninth Ward Residents: Again, all the topics will be helpful for your group. Look at the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and human impacts and development. Consider what a resident might bring to the argument. 

Each group should start their investigation with the recommended pages above, but feel free to explore this entire website and other websites.

For further information about teaching with the Role Playing Technique, see the Starting Point collection.