From July 16th-18th, the CWPPRA Public Outreach Team and special guests helped educate children about wetland resources during the inaugural Project Front Yard STEM summer camp at Girard Park in Lafayette, LA. Project Front Yard is an organization within Lafayette Consolidated Government that seeks to educate the public towards a more sustainable future. Our activities this week covered wetland plants, endangered species, and birding with groups split by age: 5-8, 9-10, and 11-14 years old.
On the first day, our team demonstrated how wetland plants transport gases through their tissues with the help of Carrie Salyers of the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. Using plastic cups, straws, and a tray of water, campers had to get air into and out of the “leaves” (cups) and the “roots” (straws) while they were inundated. We also brought our Wetland Jeopardy board to test campers’ knowledge of Louisiana’s wetland flora, fauna, and benefits.
Tuesday morning, the children walked into their meeting room to a toothy surprise. Gabe Giffin from LDWF brought several young alligators from Rockefeller NWR for the campers to hold and examine. In another room, Carrie Salyers taught the campers about the biology of endangered whooping cranes. After discussing how Whooping Cranes use their beaks to catch food, Salyers, her CWPPRA helpers, and ULL’s Sam Hauser led an activity exploring how bird beak shapes are suited to eating different types of foods.
For our last day with the camp, Jessica Schulz, an ornithologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, brought a mist net to demonstrate how birds are captured and processed in the field. We set up outside in Girard Park and allowed the children to retrieve fake birds from the mist net, band their legs, and record some measurements to measure the health of the birds. While we were setting up, we accidentally caught a real house sparrow! The bird was released quickly and campers were able to see firsthand how effective mist nets can be!
What better way to spend a Friday afternoon than with jambalaya, Cajun music, and conservation? That is how the CWPPRA outreach team and many other organizations spent last Friday, April 20th, at the UL-Lafayette Fête de la Terre Expo. The expo showcased many wonderful local groups including, but not limited to, the Citizens’ Climate Lobby, the TECHE Project, and the Bayou Vermilion District, all hosted by the ULL Office of Sustainability.
Students visiting the expo could learn about how long it takes for different types of litter to decompose naturally, how solar panels are used to generate power, and whether or not to recycle different waste products. During their visit, they could grab free jambalaya, listen to the Cajun jam session, or decorate their very own reusable grocery bag. There are so many resources that help our community celebrate conservation, and the expo was a beautiful day for getting ULL students and faculty involved, interested, and informed.
Families enjoying a Saturday adventure together on March 11th had the chance to explore different aspects of the ecosystems around them, including ways that wetlands help them and native wildlife. Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection, and Restoration staff exhibited materials and games at the Estuarine Habitats and Coastal Fisheries Center as part of 2017 Family Adventure Day to benefit the non-profit Healing House in Lafayette, LA. This annual event sends families to different locations throughout Lafayette for experiences that range from face painting to coming face-to- face with a snake.
Over 250 people stopped by the Center where they had the opportunity to see a demonstration of how coastal wetlands protect interior communities and wildlife habitat from storm surge. Visitors could pick up recent issues of WaterMarks and other materials on wetlands restoration projects in coastal Louisiana. Kids also received Henri Heron’s activity book and helped match Louisiana wildlife with the wetland habitat they need to survive.
Other exhibitors, including US Fish & Wildlife Service and Louisiana Dept. of Wildlife & Fisheries, focused on topics like bat conservation, beekeeping, endangered species in Louisiana, and fishing. Helping families understand and appreciate the diversity of natural environments in Louisiana helps ensure that those environments will be present in the future.