The Louisiana Environmental Education Commission, Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, and the Louisiana Environmental Education Association hosted the 20th Environmental Education State Symposium on February 3-4, 2017 at the Embassy Suites by Hilton in Baton Rouge, La. The theme of this year’s symposium was “protecting Louisiana’s endangered species.”
The Louisiana Environmental Education Commission (LEEC) provides environmental education news from across Louisiana, including information on environmental education programs, workshops, and grant opportunities. The state symposium furnished opportunities for formal and non-formal environmental educators from Louisiana and surrounding states to meet and share teaching techniques as well as multiple concurrent sessions for various topics and grade levels. Keynote speaker Dr. Jessica Kastler, Coordinator of Program Development at the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory’s Marine Education Center, used individual cases of endangered species to engage the audience in explorations of the process of science while cultivating environmental stewardship. In addition to the keynote speech, presenters in 15 concurrent sessions provided lesson demonstrations, hands-on workshops, and/or exemplary programs. The Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection, and Restoration Act Public Outreach Staff was among exhibitors with a multitude of materials to assist teachers of all grade levels in furthering their students’ knowledge in environmental education and coastal protection.
World Wetlands Day is designated as a day to raise global awareness about the value and benefits of wetlands for both humanity and the planet; it is celebrated every February 2nd. Wetlands provide an immense number of benefits to not only the surrounding areas via protection, but also thriving aquaculture industries and commodities on both a national and international level. Healthy wetlands play a vital role in sustaining life and acting as natural safeguards in extreme weather events through disaster risk reduction.
The Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection, and Restoration Act participated in the appreciation of wetlands by attending the World Wetlands Day Celebration on February 2nd, 2017 at the Bayou Terrebonne Waterlife Museum in Houma, La. The South Louisiana Wetlands Discovery Center hosted its 8th annual celebration by inviting third grade students from St. Matthews Episcopal School and Honduras Elementary, as well as sixth grade students from St. Francis de Sales Catholic School, totaling 185 local students, to learn about different aspects of wetlands. The CWPPRA Public Outreach Staff informed students about the relevance of wetlands by drawing connections between four different yet familiar types of wetlands and seafood, previous hurricane activity in the region, industry jobs, and wetland functionality. In order to do so, the CWPPRA staff incorporated the Where the Wild Things Are game to teach the students about wetland habitats and the animals living in them. This game consisted of students matching different wetland bean bag animals to the correct habitat: swamp, marsh, barrier island, and ocean. Where the Wild Things Are provides an opportunity for students to understand the connections between different wetland environments, recognize the adaptability of some animals to more than one habitat, and identify specific characteristics of each habitat, such as vegetation.
On October 15, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service hosted the 19th Annual Wild Things Festival at the Southeast Louisiana Refuge Headquarters in Lacombe, La. This exciting family-friendly event gives the community an opportunity to engage in outdoor activities while celebrating National Wildlife Refuge Week. This free public event included canoe and pontoon boat tours, hayrides, live animals, wildflower walks, kids activities, bird house building, live music, and a youth wildlife art competition.
The Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection, and Restoration Act Public Outreach staff was among the 40 exhibitors providing hands-on activities to encourage knowledge of the Louisiana outdoors. In order to accurately portray the importance of aquatic, coastal regions, the CWPPRA staff utilized an ocean character, Sid the Restoration Squid, whose six unique legs each represented a different restoration method. The six restoration methods include barrier island restorations, marsh creations, shoreline protection, hydrologic restoration, freshwater and sediment diversions, and terracing. Each leg consisted of a distinct craft material that would correspond with a restoration method, in which children would assemble and personalize their own squid. Each child’s personal squid was accompanied by an explanation guide of CWPPRA’s efforts to restore, protect, and/or create Louisiana’s wetlands.
On September 24th, nearly 1,000 Girl Scouts, their leaders and parents congregated at Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond, La. to participate in the Believe In Girls (B.I.G.) event-the annual gathering of girl scouts from the 23 southeast Louisiana parishes to celebrate the beginning of a new scouting year.
The event offered a day of hands-on activities and presentations showcasing organizations which foster and encourage Girl Scout involvement and education, focusing on Girl Scout Initiatives such as STEM, healthy living, financial literacy and outdoor legacy. Keynote speaker, Representative Helena Moreno of Louisiana’s 93rd District encouraged the girls to seek their own identity and take pride in being a girl. Participants were encouraged to find exhibits displaying topics of interests according to each girls’ likes for a wider range of learning experiences.
The Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection, and Restoration Act’s Public Outreach staff engaged the science interests of many participants by testing their coastal landscape, wildlife, and plant knowledge through CWPPRA’s Wetland Jeopardy and Wetland Animal Tracks games. Both games connect the importance of science to the significance of coastal protection and conservation. In addition to games, CWPPRA also provided Henri Heron’s Louisiana Wetlands activity book, stickers, wetland hero coloring sheets, and a variety of different CWPPRA publications.
The Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve celebrated the centennial of the National Park Service at The Barataria Preserve by hosting BugBlitz on Friday, May 6th. This Biodiversity University Science & Nature Festival was held to encourage nearly 500 local K-12 students to learn science and environmental concepts hands-on. Among the exhibitors of scientists, expert naturalists, and researchers were the Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection, and Restoration Act’s Public Outreach staff. The CWPPRA Outreach staff exhibited the Where the Wild Things Are game in which students learn about coastal wildlife and environments by tossing bean bag animals into their correct habitats, such as marsh, swamp, barrier island, and ocean. CWPPRA outreach members offered Wetland Jeopardy for children and adults to test their coastal wetland knowledge. CWPPRA also displayed the Southeast Louisiana Land Loss map, along with Henri Heron’s Louisiana Wetlands activity books and wetland themed temporary tattoos and stickers.