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The process through which the Rethinkers examine these issues and offer recommendations is grounded in social and emotional intelligence, which helps create the climate of trust that makes innovation possible.
On July 21, 2006, the Rethinkers held their first news conference in front of Sherwood Forest Elementary School in New Orleans East.
Shannon Taylor, a 16-year-old, described for those gathered what the Rethinkers and other New Orleans students had "endured" in their schools, even before Katrina, telling stories of one student who sat on the edge of a table all year long because there were not enough desks and chairs and of another who never owned a knapsack--and never needed one because students were not permitted to bring books home.
Working with architects, chefs, farmers, and artists, the Rethinkers made recommendations in 2007 for improving school bathrooms and in 2008 for improving school food.
So we Rethinkers decided to dream big about what great schools could look like by the 10th anniversary in 2015.
They also announced a $50,000 Neighborhood Housing Services grant to put in place the Rethinkers' recommendation of a restorative justice garden at Langston Hughes Academy, one of the six schools where Rethinkers clubs are active, and to train students and staff about how to better handle offenses.
But "this is as big and bigger than Katrina," says Angelamia Bachemin, the director of the Jazz Hip Hop Orchestra who works with the Rethinkers.
Burkes did an exercise with the Rethinkers to help them identify everything in the classroom that has had some connection to oil.
Shortly after this meeting, several Rethinkers visited the Crescent City Farmers Market on St.
Yet the Rethinkers were committed to offering more than that as they continued to study the relationship between oil on the one hand and their schools and the larger community on the other.
Indeed, as they continued to learn about the effects of the spill throughout the summer, the Rethinkers staged a mock trial in which they posed the big question: Who is really responsible for the oil spill in the Gulf: BP or everyone who uses oil?
We know 'oil-free schools' sounds easy to dismiss because it's such a big vision," notes Mallory Falk, a recent Middlebury College graduate and community organizer who came to New Orleans to work with the Rethinkers.