This week is a big one for us in habitat conservation and restoration. This past Saturday, we celebrated World Wetlands Day and took some time to appreciate the variety and importance of wetlands around us. In case you didn’t see it, we posted on Monday about our Friday spent with students in Houma, LA. This week is also the official start of National Green Week, a set of programs developed by the Green Education Foundation (GEF) in the United States!
Across the country, schools will be offering GEF programs between now and the end of April to foster greater environmental consciousness. Programs that are offered can be found on their website, listed in our “sources” section. Programs consist of 5 days of lessons and associated activities, and they explore multiple topics within themes such as green energy, waste reduction, and sustainable water. Our hope is that schools in our state implement similar lessons. Thanks to programs like National Green Week, we have more citizens who are conscious of human impacts on ecosystems than ever before. In Louisiana, programs like CWPPRA, BTNEP, and CRCL focus on telling the story of coastal land loss and all the potential consequences of letting it happen. Environmental awareness of topics like clean water, energy efficiency, and waste reduction has major benefits to the health of our coastal zone. For more information, feel free to check out our posts about measuring water quality and soil pollution.
The mission of environmental educational programs is to start conversations and lay a solid foundation of knowledge that students can build on. Being introduced to pressing environmental issues at early ages nurtures better stewardship and more productive attitudes when it comes to the challenges of coastal erosion, deforestation, pollution, and other issues. In Louisiana, legislators are already beginning to realize the severity of our disappearing coast and are making changes accordingly. For this, we are extremely fortunate. We are proud to work alongside CPRA and our other partners towards our mutual goal of a resilient Louisiana coastline, and we look forward to the younger generations adopting this mission.
Getting out and working with students is one of our favorite things to do in the public outreach office, so we are so glad we were hosted by the South Louisiana Wetlands Discovery Center this past Friday, February 1, for World Wetlands Day. Located in downtown Houma, Louisiana, the SLWDC has a beautifully curated wetlands museum exhibit as well as warm and friendly staff. The event was mostly open to Houma area schoolchildren ranging from 3rd to 7th grade with a short period at the end during which the public could participate. Students cycled through and engaged with 7 tables that each had a different focus.
Going around the room, Restore or Retreat taught about coastal erosion with a small model of a barrier island’s sandy beach, then the USDA Agricultural Research Service had students match seeds to pictures of their parent plants. The next table was our host, the South Louisiana Wetlands Discovery Center, with a presentation about invasive species. They brought their resident nutria, Beignet, as an example. Next, the LSU Veterinary Teaching Wildlife Hospital brought two hawks and a screech owl, all of whom are residents at their school due to injuries. T Baker Smith demonstrated some restoration techniques like shoreline protection, vegetative planting, and marsh creation. After those techniques, Louisiana’s Department of Environmental Quality (LDEQ) presented how it is important to treat wastewater and how wetlands act as filters, and BTNEP shared a few examples of animals with shells. We brought a game that uses bean bag animals to teach about how some species are confined to a specific habitat, but some animals can use more than one habitat.
The celebration started in response to the Feb 2, 1971 signing of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance Especially as Waterfowl Habitat, which is an international treaty to recognize wetlands as vitally important ecosystems.  On this day, organizations worldwide share a mutual goal to raise awareness and spread appreciation for wetlands near them. We appreciate the opportunity to get out and interact with students and we are proud to have worked with so many other enthusiastic and educational groups. Many thanks to our hosts, visitors, and colleagues- we appreciate all of the work you do to #ProtectOurCoast.
In some parts of the world, February 2nd is a time to make weather predictions, and, while some of that did happen in coastal Louisiana, students and informal educators also gathered to celebrate World Wetlands Day. Celebrated internationally each year since 1997, World Wetlands Day commemorates the 1971 adoption of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands and tries to raise awareness about the importance of wetlands to people and the planet; this year’s theme was “Wetlands for a Sustainable Urban Future.”
More than 100 students and educators gathered at the Bayou Terrebonne Waterlife Museum in Houma, LA for activities hosted by the South Louisiana Wetlands Discovery Center. Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection, and Restoration Act staff were in attendance to talk with students about the different types of wetlands we have in Louisiana. In addition to a scavenger hunt in the museum as they learned about the services that wetlands provide, students had the opportunity to get up close to wetland wildlife, learn about different wetland habitats, and think about how water moves through coastal and urban systems. Groups providing activities included Restore or Retreat, the Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Program, LSU Wildlife Hospital of LA, and the USDA Sugarcane Research Station. In addition to wildlife habitat, wetlands provide flood control, water purification, and sediment capture services, making them important for urban and rural communities.
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 Tuesday, February 2, The Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection, and Restoration Act’s Public Outreach staff attended the 2016 World Wetland’s Day Celebration at the South Louisiana Wetlands Discovery Center in Houma. In attendance were nearly 200 local students from St. Matthew’s Episcopal School, St. Francis de Sales Catholic School, Honduras Elementary, and the Home School Association. The CWPPRA Outreach staff exhibited two interactive games entitledWhere the Wild Things Are and Wetland Animal Tracks, where students were able to learn about wetland habitats and the animals living in them. Where the Wild Things Are consists of each student receiving a number of different wetland bean bag animals which must be tossed to its correct habitat: swamp, marsh, barrier island, and ocean. Similarly, the Wetland Animal Tracks game displays a photo of the tracks of different wetland animals, prompting students to guess what animal the tracks belong to based on photos and natural history clues. The CWPPRA staff also handed out wetland hero coloring sheets, as well as brochures which highlight CWPPRA’s efforts to restore Louisiana’s wetlands.