BATON ROUGE, La. - The LSU AgCenter's 4-H youth development program has received a $1.5 million, three-year grant to continue a wetlands-based curriculum aimed at students and teachers in grades fourth through 12th. This is the third time that the AgCenter has received a grant for this program, which has been in operation since 2007.
Funded by the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority of Louisiana, the grant will allow teachers across the state to receive wetlands-based lessons free of charge, according to the Youth Wetlands Program manager, Ashley Mullens.
"The curriculum includes 35 lessons that are cross-curricula and include all of the major core subjects such as math, science, social studies and language arts. This allows the lessons some flexibility in that they are not confined to just science classes," Mullens said.
Mark Tassin, 4-H youth development department head, said that the program's success is indicated by the program's renewal.
"The program has been successful and is one reason it has been renewed twice already. There continues to be a demand for the curricula, which shows this is a program teachers both want and need," Tassin said.
Since its inception more than 300,000 students and 5,000 teachers from all 64 parishes have participated in the program.
The grant will also fund wetland activities outside of the classroom. Mullens said that she is planning and hosting field trips for schools.
"We will be hosting both native grasses and tree plantings throughout Louisiana. Some of these will occur in coastal areas and are designed to help fight coastal land loss," Mullens said.
Several 4-H camping programs will benefit from the grant. The 4-H summer camping program, open to fourth- through sixth-grade students, will offer a wetlands educational track that emphasizes the importance of Louisiana's wetlands and wetland ecology.
The 4-H LOST Camp program will highlight wetlands-based career opportunities featuring guest speakers employed in occupations such as a marine biology, coastal hydrology or wildlife management. The name stands for Louisiana Outdoor Science and Technology, and the camp is open to seventh- and eighth-graders only, Tassin said.
Marsh Maneuvers, a week-long summer camp based at Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge in Cameron and Vermilion parishes, allows students to spend time in some of the most productive wetlands in the state. Students encounter aquatic wildlife and become part of a research project to restore the coast, Tassin said.
With the reintroduction of whooping cranes recently in Louisiana, Mullens decided to include a component on the bird. Partnering with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife & Fisheries, a series of workshops are scheduled to raise awareness that these rare birds are present in Louisiana.
"The workshops will also provide some basic biology of the crane such as what type of habitat they prefer, what they eat and their reproductive rates," she said.
During the week of April 21-27, Mullens said that there will be a statewide emphasis on wetlands education beginning with Louisiana Earth Day in Baton Rouge on Sunday, April 21. Vegetative plantings with students from Winn and St. Charles parishes are scheduled. As part of an effort to help hurricane-stricken communities, a group of students with Washington International will be visiting areas in New Orleans that were significantly impacted by Hurricane Katrina and helping with ongoing recovery efforts.
For those teachers interested in participating in next year's Youth Wetlands Program, registration begins in August and runs through October. Teachers need to contact their local parish cooperative extension office for more information.