A place to build the future
The Louisiana Children’s Museum is carrying out a project to bring informal schooling to New Orleans
Written by: Cláudio Lovato Filho
Dimas Salvia with kids at the Louisiana Children´s Museum: taking part in an event on engineering and construction
Once upon a time there was a dream that became a plan that is now a reality in the city of New Orleans, Louisiana, with the help of Odebrecht. An initiative of the Louisiana Children’s Museum, the Early Learning Village (ELV) will be an informal school in New Orleans City Park where children aged 8 and under can participate in programs that will help them learn to read and write and improve those skills, with their parents’ involvement. Community volunteers and partner institutions, as well as the museum staff, will play an active role.
Historically, the Louisiana school system was already one of the worst in the United States when hurricane Katrina struck in 2005. After that, the situation got even worse. The ELV is attempting to change things for the better. To make that happen, the Louisiana Children’s Museum has brought some partners on board: Tulane University’s Institute of Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health and the University of New Orleans are two of the institutions that have joined forces with this program, which will get started in 2009.
The ELV will cover a 1,200-sq.m area of the City Park in downtown New Orleans, where the Art Museum and Botanical Garden are located. It will work with children from all parts of Louisiana and the Gulf Coast. Currently located in downtown New Orleans, the Louisiana Children’s Museum will be moved to the park.
“Odebrecht wants to help the Louisiana Children’s Museum make its dream of the Early Learning Village come true,” says Dimas Delamagna Salvia, the Project Executive for two levee reconstruction and expansion projects that the company is currently carrying out for the US Army Corps of Engineers in the New Orleans metropolitan area. Dimas and Dan Spencer, who is the Odebrecht Business Development Executive in Louisiana, first visited the museum in March, when Odebrecht was invited to sponsor an event on engineering and construction for kids.
“During that initial conversation, we said that we weren’t just going to sponsor the event, but would play an active role by giving ideas for activities, as well as being volunteers,” says Dimas. He and Dan Spencer showed the children how levees are built to protect their city from flooding caused by hurricanes. The program was a big success, and the relationship between the Museum and Odebrecht was firmly established. “Now, we’re in the second stage, where we’re engaged in the mission of making the Early Learning Village a reality. Initially, we intend to provide support for the construction works that will be required, and manage them, while developing a business plan to ensure that the ELV is sustainable,” says Dimas.
In a letter of thanks for Dimas and Dan’s participation in the event on levee building, the Museum’s Executive Director, Julia Bland, wrote: “Thank you for your participation and your interest in working with us to build a stronger New Orleans.” The Louisiana Children’s Museum opened in 1986. Every year, it welcomes 125,000 visitors, most of whom are groups of students on school field trips. The main focus of the museum’s attractions is bolstering formal education through interactive exhibits set in the context of New Orleans and Louisiana’s history and culture.