Hillary Collis, Tassin, Mark G., Mullens, Ashley, Blanchard, Tobie M.
News Release Distributed 03/12/09
Louisiana’s wetlands face a crisis, and the youth of the state need to understand this so they can do something about it. That’s the philosophy behind the third annual Youth Wetlands Week, April 20-24, sponsored by the LSU AgCenter, with funding help from the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources.
Youth Wetlands Week, aimed at the state’s fourth through 12th graders, provides a wetland education curriculum to Louisiana teachers to raises awareness about the need for wetland rehabilitation, said Ashley Mullens, Youth Wetlands Week program manager.
“The program offers hands-on lessons for students to participate in, along with ideas for field trips and educational experiences outside of the classroom,” Mullens said. “We expect to reach 50,000 students in 54 parishes this year.”
Curriculum materials are being delivered to 800 teachers across the state through local LSU AgCenter 4-H agents. The curriculum is designed to correlate with grade level expectation for each age group, Collis said. Youngsters may learn about animal habitats, while older students could take part in experiments designed to show how wetland plants filter out sediments.
“The program definitely affects the students’ science knowledge,” Mullens said. “Last year’s test results showed a 28 percent increase in science scores in students that participated in the program.”
The Youth Wetlands Week program is not just for science teachers, though. The curriculum includes lessons in English, math, social studies and geography.
“Wetlands exist in parishes across the state,” Mullens said.
Youth Wetlands Week activities will include trash clean-ups around waterways, tree and vegetative plantings, and building and installing wood duck boxes.
“A goal of the program is to teach students they have the power to make a difference. We hope they will go out and act as an advocate to their parents and friends and other people in the community and have a sense of ownership in the state’s wetlands,” Mullens said.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture recognized Youth Wetlands Week as a program of distinction, said Mark Tassin, director of the LSU AgCenter’s 4-H program.
“This program is unique. And Louisiana is a leader in environmental education,” Tassin said.
The Youth Wetlands Week initiative sponsors wetland education at three 4-H summer camps including Grant Walker, Marsh Maneuvers and Wild Woods Wanderings.
The grant from DNR was for $1.5 million over a three-year period, which ends on Dec. 31, 2009.
“We’re in talks to extend the grant,” said Hilary Collis, director of LSU AgCenter's America's Wetland Conservation Corps.
The newly established Office of Coastal Protection and Restoration, which is a merger of the restoration divisions of DNR and the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), may be helping fund future events.
“We have also applied for various other grants and are awaiting a response,” Collis said.
Because the LSU AgCenter’s AgMagic event falls on the same week, the Youth Wetlands Week initiative will sponsor two booths there dedicated to wetland-related activities. AgMagic is in Parker Coliseum in Baton Rouge from April 20-26.
For more information about Youth Wetlands Week, contact Mullens at the LSU AgCenter 4-H office at (225) 578-2196.