EcoSTEAM Summer Camp

Lafayette Consolidated Government’s Project Front Yard hosts five weeks of a summer camp focused on environmental issues and STEAM activities. Eco-STEAM began June 17 and CWPPRA joined campers June 24 through 28. Our Wetland Warriors program included three days of wetland-based activities, outlining important adaptations that help plants and animal species with survival in the dynamic coastal wetlands of Louisiana.

We began on Monday with Wetland Jeopardy because it leads into discussion about wetland ecosystem services and children enjoy the friendly competition. The next day, we focused more specifically on wetland plants and their importance to overall ecosystem health. The Girard Park pond was helpful to discuss adaptations like the bald cypress. Our last day centered on wetland animals, mostly birds, and some of their adaptation for wetlands habitats. Birds are an excellent teaching tool because some can swim, walk, and fly, and beak variability can have some serious implications on species distribution. The campers enjoyed the beak variability activity, which challenged them to use a spoon, a fork, a straw and a toothpick to pick up various shaped snacks like gummy worms, sunflower seeds, goldfish crackers, and mini M&Ms. Our week of wetland instruction concluded with a field trip to Lafayette’s Acadiana Park Nature Station.

This was the Eco-STEAM’s second year and CWPPRA was thrilled to be included again, alongside great community partners including local IT giant CGI, UL Lafayette’s Hilliard Art Museum, the McComb-Veazey Neighborhood Coterie, and Lafayette Consolidated Government’s Office of Community Development, Parks and Recreation Department, and Recycling Division. This program is offered as an affordable summer option for area kindergarten through eighth grade students and we interacted with just over 100 eager new “Wetland Warriors.”

 

Advertisements

Thankful for Wetlands

When celebrating Thanksgiving tomorrow, be sure to think about all of the ways wetlands provide for you and yours. Whether you enjoy the serene experience of watching a sunset through bald cypress trees, catching redfish in the marsh with your family, or simply love a good shrimp po-boy, Louisiana wetlands provide a huge number of services to millions of people daily.

In addition to protecting our cities from storm surge, wetlands of all kinds host tremendous species diversity, are highly productive, and allow for many types of recreation. Louisiana provides seafood nationwide. All of our most profitable species use wetlands for some part of their life cycle. [1] For example, shrimp spawn in estuaries, crawfish spend their whole semi-aquatic lives in freshwater wetlands, and oysters occupy coastlines while providing some wave attenuation and water filtration. CWPPRA and our partners see oysters as an alternative method to protect our some parts of our coast with artificial reefs that can also be harvested, making them a highly sustainable food source. Some foods we receive from wetlands aside from seafood include turtles and ducks in some cases, rice (a staple in many cultures worldwide), and a wide array of other plants for their tubers or berries.

Beyond the food, though, wetland benefits include flood protection to our major cultural hubs and carbon sequestration. Sequestering carbon makes wetlands wildly productive and an ally in the fight against global climate change. [2] CWPPRA was written into law in 1990 to help preserve these bountiful ecosystems so they can continue to thrive and benefit people in Louisiana and beyond. This holiday season, even if you are not eating any seafood during your feasts, you are benefitting from wetlands, so say a thank you for all of those natural areas that give us so much.

[1] https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2016-02/documents/economicbenefits.pdf

[2] https://imedea.uib-csic.es/master/cambioglobal/Modulo_V_cod101611/Coastal%20sinks%20(seagrasses_mangroves_saltmarshes)/Bibliography_coastal/Chmura%20et%20al%202006.pdf