Johnny Morgan, Burgess, Wayne, Leperi, Carolyn C. | 7/20/2006 2:32:04 AM
LSU AgCenter agents from St. Bernard Parish recently conducted a six-week learning camp for students who have returned to their homes in one of Louisiana’s more devastated areas from last years hurricanes.
Carolyn Leperi, an LSU AgCenter agent in St. Bernard Parish, said the camp was designed to provide educational opportunities and to help fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders have fun this summer.
"This camp allowed students returning to the parish to enjoy some fun activities and also served as an outlet to help them feel a sense of normalcy," Leperi said of the effort.
During the camp, which was conducted from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. weekdays between June 5 and July 14, youngsters had an opportunity to be involved in educational activities that didn’t require them to be stuck in class all day.
Leperi said the students were separated into two groups for their learning exercises each day.
"While one group spent time learning the environmental lessons, the other group learned about ways to avoid obesity. Then they switched between the two lessons," she said.
Educators used activities like fishing to tie fun with learning about the environment and how the ecosystem is tied together.
"We would take the children to Torres Park here in the parish and expose them to fishing sports and let them get some hands-on experience," said LSU AgCenter agent Wayne Burgess, who was among those helping to coordinate the projects for students.
Since some of the youngsters had never been fishing, Burgess said that experience alone was an eye-opening one.
"We let them put their own reels and rods together; they had a chance to bait their own hooks, and they also experienced crabbing with chicken necks on a string," he said. "We wanted them to really get a feel for the outdoors, and I think this camp really had a great impact."
Leperi said putting on the camp was made easier with the help of three summer workers who are involved with 4-H and stepped up to the challenge. Those workers – school teacher and volunteer 4-H leader Marleen Federico along with 4-H Junior Leaders Gary Decossas and Lindsey Davis – helped to coordinate the activities.
Before Hurricane Katrina, St. Bernard Parish had 14 schools. Since the storm, there is only one working school, which reopened in the fall with about 300 students and ended the year with about 1,300 students.
Just as the number of schools has dwindled, so have the available opportunities for youngsters, so LSU AgCenter faculty members say providing camps like this one is important.
One of this camp’s highlights was its culmination with the Body Walk – an interactive educational exhibit that teaches children about various organs and functions of their bodies.
The Body Walk is part of a childhood obesity prevention program known as Smart Bodies, which is presented by the LSU AgCenter and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana. That program’s components integrate classroom activities with hands-on learning and include the OrganWise Guys and Take 10! in addition to the Body Walk.
"All of this is designed to teach children healthy lifestyles and help them to recognize the importance of preventing obesity," Leperi said. "It’s geared on the idea that preventing obesity in children is much easier than treating it and its effects later in life."
For more information on the Smart Bodies program, visit www.smartbodies.org, or visit www.lsuagcenter.com for details on 4-H youth development programs and the variety of other research, educational programs and information available from the LSU AgCenter.