Kenneth Gautreaux, Niemic, Heather
ROBERT, La. – Whether petting an alligator, planting native wetland plants or sampling macronvertebrates, Girl Scouts visiting Shell’s Robert Training & Conference Center got an up-close lesson on the diversity of animals and plant life found in Louisiana wetlands as part of the LSU AgCenter’s 4-H Youth Wetlands Week.
Nearly 50 scouts from the Hammond area attended the event. Many were working on completing their Environmental Journey, the Wonder of Water, which leads to them earning a badge, according to Heather Niemic, the southeast Louisiana 4-H Youth Wetlands program representative for the AgCenter who organized the event.
“One goal was to get the girls excited about science and get them in a wetland,” Niemic said. “Events such as this give us an opportunity to reach more youth groups and let them know how important wetlands are, especially to Louisiana.”
The scouts were divided into groups and rotated among four different stations with hands-on activities: a native plant (iris) planting, a fish facts station, animal adaptations focusing on alligators and locating and identifying macroinvertebrates, small organisms without backbones but are visible with the naked eye.
Marni Fullington, a member of Troop 30010 in Mandeville, said she learned a lot from each of the stations.
“I learned how an alligator has adapted to the environment and that fish actually have ears which I didn’t think was possible,” Fullington said.
Cameron Talley, of Mandeville, enjoyed learning about alligators and fish the most.
“I learned that alligators have eyelids and when they close them they are like goggles that allow them to see underwater,” Talley said. “I also learned that catfish sting with their fins and not their whiskers.”
Melanie Talley, Cameron’s mother, serves as a volunteer for the Girl Scouts and was also in attendance.
“Today is Earth Day, and I thought this would be a good way to celebrate it. It’s also educational and gets them outside,” she said.
The training center served as an ideal location to host the event because it contains wetland areas within the 27-acre facility. The center is attempting to become designated as a Corporate Lands for Learning, a national certification given by the Wildlife Habitat Council. Greg Byers, a learning advisor for Shell, said the event fit well with its mission.
“Shell is a global and social performer for all communities and cultures. We want to be stewards of the environment through research, learning and protection,” Byers said.
This event was one of many planned across the state as part of the LSU AgCenter’s 4-H Youth Wetlands program. The program is funded by the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority. Approximately 753,000 students were registered to participate in Youth Wetlands activities during the week along with 1,600 teachers.