Magazine article Montessori Life

AMS 2009 Annual Conference: The Possibilities of New Orleans

Magazine article Montessori Life

AMS 2009 Annual Conference: The Possibilities of New Orleans

Article excerpt

Planning for each of our AMS conferences takes many years. In 2004, New Orleans was selected as the site for our 2009 Annual Conference, and a con- tract with a hotel (the New Orleans Marriott in the historic French Quarter) was signed. Little did we know the extent to which things would change, just 1 year later, as a result of Hurricane Katrina. With the catastrophic failure of the levees and the subse- quent floods, neighborhoods as far as 100 miles from the storm's center were destroyed, and many lives were lost. Intense political controversy followed about the government's failure to provide an appropriate response, both before and after the storm. AMS leadership started to wonder if we should cancel the hotel contract and move the conference elsewhere.

We quickly learned that canceling the contract would be financially prohibitive. There were also numerous appeals from community leaders in New Orleans, reminding us that by forging ahead with our conference plans, we could help bring tourist dollars to the city, which in turn would stimulate employment, help rebuilding efforts, and by extension, encourage the return of businesses and residents. And so, we decided to stay.

We recognized that by holding the conference in New Orleans, we could provide unique opportunities for participants to put Montessori values into practice by taking part in a meaningful service project that would help residents or organizations still struggling to rebuild. We could also provide opportunities for attendees to rejoice in the musical and artistic gifts of the city by engaging in workshops with local artists, musicians, and educators. AMS staff and conference volunteers quickly got to work designing a'Tre-Conference Day of Service, Art, and Culture" - unprecedented in our organization's history - and set aside time the following day for reflection. I wish (hope, trust) that you will be as enthusiastic and excited about these plans as we are.

To organize our service project, we are collaborating with experienced volunteer agencies in New Orleans. Since the situation there is changing rapidly, we won't know until closer to the Day of Service exactly what our project will be. We will post updated information to our website as it becomes available. Meanwhile, I encourage those who are interested to register early-space will be strictly limited-and to come prepared to be flexible about assignments. …

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