The Harry Hurst Wetland Watchers Project took its first trip during the 1997-1998 school year. The next school year, the project took off and students had such a productive year it was decided that they needed some type of end of the year celebration. During the first Wetland Watchers Celebration, the US Army brought out some tents and humvees for a total of about 300 people. 18 years later, the project has grown, the outreach events have grown, Wetland Watchers Park has grown, and the Wetland Watchers Celebration has grown!
The 2016 Wetland Watchers Celebration included nearly 800 St. Charles Parish 4th grades, 220 8th graders, and about 40 Destrehan High WISE Club members. Dedicated partners including UNO-PIES, LSU Sea Grant, the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, US Corps of Engineers, Wildlife and Fisheries, DEQ, DNR, USDA-NRCS, United Way St. Charles, St. Charles Hospital, Martin Ecosystems, NOAA, LSU Coastal Roots, and many more were joined by local plant volunteers including Dow, Monsanto, Motiva, Valero, Shell Pipeline, Atmos, Entergy, Entergy Waterford III, and Solar Alternatives. All partners hosted interactive demonstrations and activities for the students to rotate through for a day of fun and education!
In addition to our Environmental Education All-Star partner exhibitors, we had a few special guests enjoying the day with the students as well! Singer/ fiddler Amanda Shaw along with her band the Cute Guys have been a part of the Wetland Watcher Celebration since Amanda was 12 years old! She is an amazing performer that Celebration attendees of all ages love. Miss Louisiana USA Candice Bennatt and Miss Louisiana Teen USA 2015, Katherine Haik visited with students throughout the day, along with NFL Saints players, Joe Morgan, Brandon Coleman, Tim Hightower, and Seantavius Jones. Local stars Gary Champagne III for History Channel’s Mississippi Men and Kip Benoit and Big Ward from Animal Planet’s America River Renengades volunteered time to spend with the students. America’s Wetland Estuarian mascots mingled with the crowds. Three NBA Pelican Cheerleaders visited with students including former Hurst Wetland Watcher students Victoria Pellerin and Sara Rose Brignac. “I am so glad that Victoria and Sara wanted to come back, visit with the students, and show their support for the Wetland Watchers. I am so proud of them both.” The Allemands Elementary Cajun Dancers also showcase their talents at the Celebration each year.
“The Wetland Watchers Service-Learning Project is a true community project. It is incredible how much enthusiasm and excitement all of our partners bring to the event” said Hurst teacher and Wetland Watchers Project creator Barry Guillot, ” There is no doubt that our Hurst Middle staff, along with all of the partners and guests have created memories and experiences that these students will remember forever!”