Youth wetlands education program gets $1.5 million for three more years

Kenneth Gautreaux, Coreil, Paul D., Mullens, Ashley  |  9/23/2009 1:05:06 AM

News Release Distributed 09/22/09

The LSU AgCenter’s Youth Wetlands Education and Outreach Program has received an additional three years of funding for $1.5 million from the Louisiana Office of Coastal Protection and Restoration.

The program, which is an environment education enrichment curriculum focusing on the state’s wetlands and the current state of wetland loss, will receive $500,000 each year beginning in January 2010 and ending December 2012, according to Paul Coreil, LSU AgCenter vice chancellor for extension.

“We are pleased that this program has been extended another three years,” Coreil said. “We want to continue to teach students across the state about the coastal land loss challenges and potential solutions, which will be crucial to long-term sustainability of coastal and noncoastal communities protected from hurricanes by wetland buffers.”

The program is administered through the LSU AgCenter’s 4-H Youth Development office. It was established in 2007 with a $1.5 million grant from the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources to cover its first three years.

Since its creation more than 100,000 students and 2,000 educators have participated.

“Informed teachers, future leaders and future scientists can positively impact decisions leading to a sustainable coast. We need everyone working together to turn the tide on coastal erosion, which threatens wildlife and fisheries habitat, homes, businesses and jobs,” Coreil said.

The program will provide teachers in grades four through 12 with grade-appropriate materials and lesson plans. The curriculum is based on the grade level expectations established by the Louisiana Department of Education, according to Ashley Mullens, 4-H Youth Wetlands Program director.

Teachers may receive these materials at no cost. Educators should register by Oct. 16 at www.lsuagcenter/com/yww to receive the instructional material for this year’s lessons.

The curriculum focuses on several areas – wetlands habitats, wetland vegetation, soils, hydrology, wildlife and fisheries and environmental impacts, Mullens said.

“These lessons not only focus on Louisiana’s coastal marshes, but also the important role that bottomland and upland swamps play in our wetland systems,” Mullens said. “The lessons are just as applicable to a teacher in Morehouse Parish as to a teacher in Terrebonne Parish.”

Every year, a week in April is designated Youth Wetlands Week. For 2010, the week is April 19-23. During this time, there will be an increased focus on the significant role wetlands play in protecting citizens from storm surges, providing habitat for animals and contributing to economic development.

“This week will have numerous organized activities for students to participate in, including service-learning projects such as trash cleanups along local waterways and vegetative plantings,” Mullens said.

Although the week is the culmination of the program, there are other highlights throughout the year. Marsh Maneuvers is a weeklong camp held every July at Rockefeller Refuge in Cameron and Vermilion parishes. The camp focuses on the life cycle of marine organisms and the complexity of restoration efforts.

In the northeast Louisiana delta, Wild Woods Wanderings, a one-week camp held at Poverty Point in West Carroll Parish and the Tensas River National Wildlife Refuge in Madison Parish, examines how wetlands and soil types shape ecosystems in the northern part of the state.

The Youth Wetlands Program not only highlights Louisiana’s wetlands, it promotes wetlands-related careers such as a biologist or an arborist. Videos that accompany the curriculum material allow students to see some of the tasks involved with these occupations and how these careers interact with the wetlands.

For more information regarding the Youth Wetlands Program, contact your parish LSU AgCenter office or call 225-578-2196.

Craig Gautreaux

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