LSU AgCenter Inaugurates Youth Wetlands Week April 16-20

Carrie Mendoza, Benedict, Linda F., Fontenot, Kathryn  |  3/21/2007 7:42:14 PM

News Release Distributed 03/20/07

During the week of April 16-20, school children in every parish will learn lessons about Louisiana’s wetlands, and some will actually participate in wetland renewal projects at neighboring wetland sites.

These lessons and activities are all part of "Youth Wetlands Week," which educators at the LSU AgCenter hope will become an annual event in the state.

"The goal is that more people understand the critical importance of upland and coastal wetlands and the need to prevent further loss," said Dr. Carrie Mendoza, coordinator of environmental education for the LSU AgCenter. "By targeting young people, our efforts will have a longer-term impact."

More than 17,000 young people will participate in about six hours of lessons during Youth Wetlands Week, taught by 232 teachers in 135 schools. In addition, 43 schools have agreed to coordinate a restoration planting at a nearby wetland, Mendoza said.

"We are more than pleased with the response this first year," said Dr. Mark Tassin, director of the 4-H program for the LSU AgCenter.

4-H agents across the state were in charge of recruiting schools to participate. These agents, along with members of AmeriCorps stationed in Louisiana, also will help with the teaching and carrying out the outdoor projects, Mendoza said.

Youth Wetlands Week came about through a $1.5 million grant from the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources (LDNR).

"This educational program will engage our young people in the fight to keep our wetlands alive," said Scott Angelle, LDNR secretary.

Mendoza said graduate student Kathryn Fontenot developed the lesson plans for about six hours of instruction aimed at 7th and 8th graders and high school environmental science classes.

"We were able to recruit a graduate student and former middle school teacher, Kathryn Fontenot, to develop lesson plans for about six hours of instruction aimed at 7th and 8th graders and high school environmental science classes," Mendoza said. "It was important that we have the support of our teachers, not only in development but also in implementation, delivery and evaluation."

"We appreciate the efforts of the LSU AgCenter in planning and developing the 2007 Youth Wetlands Week," said Scott Norton, a director with the Louisiana Department of Education, one of the partners in this project. "Louisiana is one of the few states that includes environmental science in its content standards."

Other cooperators include America’s Wetland Campaign, the Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Program and the Lieutenant Governor’s Office.

The money will cover the materials and training costs for three years. Youth Wetlands Week in 2008 and 2009 will be targeted at more grade levels and more schools, Fontenot said.

"We hope this will continue to be part of the curriculum in Louisiana schools well beyond these three years," Mendoza said. "We hope what the students learn will carry into their lifetime, and they will be an integral part of saving this American treasure."

The LSU AgCenter also is sponsoring an essay contest for the high school students participating. Winners will receive all-expense paid participation in two week-long 4-H camping experiences – Marsh Maneuvers in south Louisiana and Wildwood Wanderings in north Louisiana. The contest deadline is the week after Youth Wetlands Week.

Wetlands facts the students will learn include the following:

--Since 1930, Louisiana has lost 1,900 square miles of wetlands.

--Thirty percent of all coastal marshes in the United States are in Louisiana.

--Every 2.7 miles of wetland absorbs 1 foot of storm surge during hurricanes.

--Wetlands provide habitat for wildlife, including more than 5 million waterfowl in the coastal wetlands of Louisiana.

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Contacts:
Carrie Mendoza at (225) 578-2906, or cmendoza@agcenter.lsu.edu
Kathryn Fontenot at (225) 578-2906, or kkfontenot@agcenter.lsu.edu
Writer:
Linda Foster Benedict at (225) 578-2937, or lbenedict@agcenter.lsu.edu

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