Youth Learn Roles Of Wetlands Through Variety of Activities

Bruce Schultz  |  4/25/2007 2:07:51 AM

Iowa High School ninth-grader Jordan Pickett pours silty water into a mixture of sand, rock and vegetation to simulate the filtering effects of wetlands. The educational activity at Iowa was just one of many across the state April 16-20 as the LSU AgCenter orchestrated Youth Wetlands Week.

W.W. Lewis Middle School student Victoria Montgomery, center, sprays water on a model of a community to demonstrate the effects of runoff to her classmates. Such educational activities were conducted in classrooms across Louisiana last week (April 16-20) as schools observed Youth Wetlands Week and used lesson plans provided by the LSU AgCenter.

Nine-year-old Dayton Huntsberry of Lake Arthur tries to determine what wetlands animal is in a box at the LSU AgCenter exhibit which was part of a fishing rodeo organized by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service in Jennings. The events were designed to teach young people about the environment while also giving them a chance to have fun.

News Release Distributed 04/24/07

4-H leader Sharon Nabours took her wetlands program on the road recently – teaching students at several schools in Southwest Louisiana the valuable role marshes and swamplands play in protecting the fragile coast.

The project was part of Youth Wetlands Week April 16-20. The LSU AgCenter designed the wetlands week program to involve youth across the state in learning about the importance of wetlands. Nabours is a 4-H volunteer leader in Calcasieu Parish who is working with the Wetlands Conservation Corps.

At Iowa High School in Calcasieu Parish, Nabours gave a lesson on the role played by wetlands to filter sediment and other material before they reach waterways and the Gulf of Mexico.

Nabours used plastic soft drink bottles cut in half for students to make models of the surface of a wetlands area, using any combination of a coffee filter, rocks, sand and grass.

Iowa High School agriculture teacher Bill Thompson said the lesson helps with what he is trying to teach his students.

"We touch on environmental issues, but with everything we have to cover during the year it’s difficult to get in depth, so it’s nice to have Sharon come in with these experiments," he said. "I’m planning to use this lesson more today and in the future."

Thompson said he hopes some of the students get ideas from the experiment to use in public speaking competition sponsored by FFA.

Thompson divided the class into teams for a competition to see who could design the best filter using grass, dead vegetation, rocks, sand and a coffee filter.

The class decided the team of Brandon Aucoin, Derrick Lenkowski and Garrett Matt used the best combination of materials – with a coffee filter lined with dead grass followed by sand then rocks. Water flowed slowest through their filtration system.

"I’m impressed, because soil is a similar structure," Thompson said. "It really mimics a natural soil composition."

Nabours also told the class about an essay contest for high school students. Winners will get to attend either of the 4-H programs Marsh Maneuvers in South Louisiana or Wild Woods Wanderings in Northeast Louisiana for free.

At the W.W. Lewis Middle School in Sulphur, Nabours brought the lesson of how pollutants end up in waterways. There she had science teacher Kellie Khoury’s eighth-grade students draw a community on a sheet of plastic, sprinkle red Kool-Aid on it and then simulate rainfall with a spray bottle to show how storm-water runoff washes pollutants into streams.

Students in Jean Ann LaGrappe’s seventh-grade science class also planted flowers and trees around the school’s water garden.

Student Craig Norris dug holes for trees and said he enjoyed working in the soil.

"It’s fun planting, and I like being outside," he said.

Those are just a couple of examples of the variety of classroom and outdoor activities conducted by schools across Louisiana last week.

In another example, the LSU AgCenter was among presenters Saturday (April 21) at a youth fishing rodeo in Jennings organized by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.

At the LSU AgCenter booth, children could learn about the creatures that inhabit wetlands, get seeds of vegetation native to wetlands to plant at home and learn about different ways water quality is tested.

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Writer: Bruce Schultz at (337) 788-8821 or bschultz@agcenter.lsu.edu

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