Ponchatoula students learn the value of wetlands

Johnny Morgan, McCallum, Mindy C.  |  4/27/2011 12:08:07 AM

News Release Distributed 04/26/11 

PONCHATOULA, La. – The LSU AgCenter youth wetlands program staff and Ponchatoula High School FFA members taught elementary students the value of wetlands at their Wetlands Celebration Day on April 21 as part of Youth Wetlands Week.

“First, we’re enhancing this pond by planting native wetlands plants. And second, we’re educating these fourth grade students about the importance of wetlands,” said Mindy McCallum Brooks, LSU AgCenter extension associate and coordinator of the event at the Ponchatoula Area Recreation Park.

The high school students staffed 10 booths surrounding the pond each with activities and information to better help the younger students understand how they can help improve wetlands.

At one booth the students painted wetland messages on reusable grocery bags that were later provided to stores to help get the word out about the importance of wetlands. At another booth students learned about recycling water.

The park’s pond is suffering from runoff of clay dirt which clouds the water and prevents sunlight from penetrating the water and sustaining fish and plants there, Brooks said.

The FFA members are not strangers to helping get the word out about wetlands and showing what can be done to help, according to Alice Dubois, Ponchatoula agriscience teacher.

“One of the big missions for our students is to share knowledge about agriculture and natural resources and the preservation of those resources,” Dubois said.

The Youth Wetlands Program curriculum is provided by the LSU AgCenter to schools and other youth groups across south Louisiana.

The FFA students spent a day working at the pond to prepare for the younger students who attended the Wetlands Celebration Day event.

“We came out here and worked with wetland specialists to assess the pond and collect data. We tested the pond for turbidity and found that it was extremely high. There was a high population of turtles and serious bank erosion,” said Brook Hoover, a ninth grade student.

To solve some of the problems and bring fish back to the pond, the students planted wetland plants, removed some of the turtles and set out snake traps.

For additional information on the LSU AgCenter’s youth wetland program, contact a 4-H agent at a parish extension office.

Johnny Morgan

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