Environmental Educator: Aimee Klein, Barbara Helveston, & Amy Hulin

Aimee Klein, Barbara Helveston, & Amy Hulin are middle school Gifted Enrichment teachers in Lafayette Parish who work hard to inspire curiosity and compassion in their students with the hopes that they will become guardians of our communities and ecosystems. 

Q:  What subject(s) & grade(s) do you teach? 

A:   We teach 5th through 8th grade Gifted Enrichment students from schools all over Lafayette Parish (21 in total, both private and public). Our program is housed at Edgar Martin Middle School in Lafayette. Teaching Gifted Enrichment gives us the freedom to develop our own curriculum and allows students the opportunity to explore concepts at a deeper level as they consider challenges and potential for growth and change in varied and diverse situations.

We believe by exposing our students to some of the environmental issues we are currently experiencing, we are able to allow them to create potential solutions, ones that may currently seem impossible, but may one day be the answer to some of our most pressing challenges.

Aimee Klein, Barbara Helveston, & Amy Hulin

Q:   Why is it important to you to teach about Louisiana wetlands, and how does it align with your teaching  philosophy?  

A:   Any time we have an opportunity to allow our students to delve into complex topics, whether in science, linguistics, mathematics or the arts and humanities, we are eager to do so! We believe that by exposing our students to some of the environmental issues we are currently experiencing, we are able to allow them to create potential solutions, ones that may currently seem impossible, but may one day be the answers to some of our most pressing challenges.

Q:  In what ways do you encourage your students to be proactive/involved in environmental stewardship?  

A:  We believe in the innate goodness and service of our students and recognize their desire to be involved leaders and agents of change. We understand that awareness is one of our greatest weapons in cultivating citizens who want to effect change in the world. By exposing them to subject matter of importance such as wetlands preservation, we hope to engage our students in lessons that give them the freedom to further explore topics and encourage them to participate in deeper conversations about ways to problem solve to improve current situations. 

Q: Describe your favorite lesson/activity that you use in your classroom to teach about Louisiana  wetlands.    

A:   One of our favorite activities with the wetlands unit was the creation of our wetlands quilts. To further tie in Louisiana cultures and the peoples who inhabit the areas in and around the wetlands, students learned about the Houma Indians, who are known for their elaborate handcrafted quilts. Students worked to create quilt squares out of found objects based on the natural elements of the wetlands. Crabs, alligators, birds and trees took shape to create a piece of artwork that currently hangs at the Wetlands Center and the LPSS Special Education Office. Additionally, several of our students won monetary prizes for their exceptional wetlands poetry. We are so proud of the work our students did on this part of their wetlands unit! 

Q:  What would you say to a student who is hesitant or not interested in participating in a lesson about  Louisiana wetlands?

A:  It is always important to us that our students are engaged in their own learning. Striking a balance between what they need to know and what they want to learn can be a challenge. By creating opportunities for students to participate in a variety of activities, we hope to excite and encourage them to learn more about the world around them. For our wetlands lessons, we shared a variety of videos to provide them with ample background about the topic, allowed them to create poetry to get their creative juices flowing, looked at maps to discover how much the wetlands are threatened and calculated wetlands loss through science experiments. We hope that by tapping into the 4 core subject areas, each of our students had an opportunity to get excited about at least one aspect of our wetlands study. 

2021 Wetlands Writing Contest Winners

All three finalists for the 5th-8th Grade Poetry Category were students in the Edgar A. Martin Gifted Program.

1st Place – “Weeping Wetlands” by Dason Worthen

My Native Tribe,
Sat by the riverbank
Waiting for the ghosts of the land
To show me the way

With dirt on our sleeves
We have tears in our eyes
Seeing our hut of a house
Being filled like a bowl

At the Crack of dawn
I see the rain
The crows calling
In the middle of the flash-flood

The rain outside poppin on the window
Calls my name like silver and gold
I run to the village to get the boat
My grandfather tells me, “It’s sold”

Our brushes filled with paint,
Recovering our home
The insects landing in out hair
The finished Product stands in its glory

2nd Place – “Her Loss” by Gabrielle Carney

The ground has it’s trails
The butterfly has a beautiful flower
A song has its notes

The mosquito bites
the tireless nights
Left her sleepy in the shade
Under the elder oak
She waits upon her uncle
to bring the boat by
It isn’t until the heat of the sun
Warms her to her bones
That she is fully alive
The wind in her hair
A salty kiss from nature
Nurturing ever still

On the far side of the levee
The water wanders
The scent of the spring
The song of the wind
A sweet lullaby
Singing softly to the child
Eyes losing hope

Like a boat and the fish
However in the end
One is always lost
Like the ground on which we stand.

3rd Place – “The Fisherman’s Tale” by Victoria Guidry

Early in the morning
as the sun is rising
I step outside
moss covers the trees
webs glistening in the morning light
the land, flooded
from the thunderstorm the night before

I take a seat on my porch
tell stories of old journeys in the South
fishing, shrimping, crabbing
it takes a lot of patience
to thrive in this kingdom full of life
but our land is worth far more than it seems

It could look as though
we have it all
but there are some restless nights
knowing our land is washing away,
everything we’ve ever known and loved
but still we smile,
singing and dancing through the pain
as our girls and boys will never remember
the land that has shaped us
into who we are now,
and who we will always be

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