ncenter” width=”300″ caption=”Check out St. Charles Parish newest summer camp Swamp School!!!! Going to be lots of fun for all!!!”][/caption]
The Wetland Watchers service-learning project was started during the 1997 – 1998 schhol year as a way to utilize our beautiful Louisiana wetlands as an outdoor classroom where students could be fully immersed in science while learning about the many values of our wetlands and the many challenges that they face. We adopted a small tract of land to improve it for our field studies and to attempt to keep it from washing away. Our first step was cleaning out all of the trash and appliances that people had dumped in the area. Some of these items included refrigerators, clothes dryers, sofas, and many car parts. I merely wanted to have a place to bring my 150 students, but as word spread many other teachers and parents wanted their students involved as well. We became a whole school project and quickly started including other schools throughout our district. As we expanded to include more students, it was apparent that the community was excited about what was happening as different agencies, organizations, businesses, and colleges enthusiastically offered their expertise, time, and resources. We currently have solid partnerships with over 35 different organizations. Student activities include planting trees, water quality testing, picking up trash, and working on what will be the first public nature trail in our area. My students use the knowledge they gain from working with experts on these trips to lead wetland trips for younger students. Our students currently work with students from 18 other schools through facilitating field experiences and science night presentations.
Students become community leaders as they host weekend community trash clean-ups, and tree plantings. We started presenting what they learned at other schools, festivals, and other public events. Students have spoken directly to over a million people across Louisiana about wetland issues. The small tract of land we adopted was included in 28 acres of land donated to our project by the Pontchartrain Levee Board seven years ago, including the 2.5 acres of land we rebuilt back to the 1976 shoreline through our partnership with community leader Milton Cambre, local industry, and the St. Charles Parish Government. This year we held the grand opening of Wetland Watchers Park. Through grants and donations we have 8 picnic pavilions, a huge grand pavilion, an incredible outdoor classroom, along with nearly 1,000 feet of boardwalk nature trails built by volunteers. My students will create all of the interpretive material for the trails to be used by locals, tourists, and other students throughout the region.
Recently, Brooke Ross, editor of Weekly Reader News, took a trip with Destrehan’s Harry Hurst Middle Wetland Watchers Service-Learning group. The purpose of this trip was to explore more about the issues and impacts of the BP Gulf oil spill to the people and wildlife of Louisiana from a kid’s perspective. The trip involved 14 students ranging from fourth grade to ninth grade representing five schools from St. Charles Parish and two schools from Lafourche Parish.
“Service-Learning is all about learning from experts and experiences,” said Hurst teacher and Wetland Watchers Coordinator Barry Guillot. “It is not safe to take the students near the oil affected areas, but it was great for all of the students to have a chance to interact with experts to gain a better understanding of what is happening. It was extremely valuable that we were able to include students from Galliano. Hearing firsthand from kids living right next to the oiled beaches added a whole new perspective to our discussions.”
The group took a day trip to the shores of Lake Pontchartrain to visit with University of New Orleans – Pontchartrain Institute for Environmental Sciences Education Director Dinah Maygarden where they discussed how the oil could impact the Pontchartrain ecosystem and the fragile wetlands along its shoreline. They also discussed the impacts the oil spill is having in the Gulf of Mexico to the ecosystem and the economic effects on the people whose livelihoods and culture surround the healthy gulf fisheries.
“I am upset that the people of south Louisiana that have been fishing for generations will be forced to find other income,” said Destrehan ninth-grader Courtney Parker. “This disaster has to be putting a strain on these families. The fisherman’s way of life revolves around the seafood industry which looks like it will be seriously damaged.”
“Just think about how the tourism is hurt.” said sixth-grader Ethan Rogers. “It makes me feel sad because we can’t go fishing in certain places or go to the beach for vacation.”
The group then traveled to the New Orleans Aquarium of the Americas where aviculturalist Tom Dyer gave students a close-up view of some of the sea turtles rescued from the oil spill. They also explored the aquarium’s role in rehabilitation process. With the huge Gulf of Mexico Gallery aquarium in the background, Dyer explained possible impacts of the oil and dispersants on the entire food chain in the Gulf starting with the smallest organisms.
“I had no idea they fed the sea turtles mayonnaise to get the oil out of their systems!” said Destrehan ninth-grader Ian Rogers.
“I cannot believe the pelicans were just coming back from being endangered,” said sixth-grader Nathan Compton. “Now, so many of the pelicans won’t survive the oil.”
“I am concerned about our livelihood never being the same not only for my family but for generations to come in South Louisiana and the many ways of life we loved about our area being destroyed.” said Galliano sixth-grader Gracie Ballenger, “My Dad has been trawling since 1976 as a young boy, and this is the first year he has not been able to trawl in 34 years due to the disaster in the gulf. I don’t know if my Dad will ever be able to make a living trawling again much less bring home fresh Louisiana seafood again and it not taste the oil.”
“My trip to Louisiana during the height of the BP oil spill was eye-opening. I spoke to so many scientists and environmentalists, yet hearing what local students had to say about the disaster stands out most to me.” said Ross, “I was so impressed by the intelligent, environment-conscious young members of the Wetland Watchers, and I thoroughly enjoyed learning about their concerns and hopes for the future of the Gulf coast.”
The story is scheduled to be featured in Weekly Reader’s September Back-To-School issue. The Wetland Watchers Service-Learning project is supported in part by a grant from the Louisiana Serve Commission in the Office of Lieutenant Governor.
Wetland Watchers Park is located near the Bonnet Carre Spillway located in Norco, Louisiana
Directions to our site from Baton Rouge
Take I-10 East from Baton Rouge
Exit I-10 via ramp at sign reading “Exit I-310 S to Boutte/Houma” and go Southwest for 3 miles
Exit I-310 via ramp at sign reading “Exit 2 US-61 to Kenner/Norco”
Continue on Hwy 61 (Airline Hwy) for 5.5 miles to the Bonnet Carre Spillway
Do not cross the Spillway Bridge
Take a right onto the Bonnet Carre Spillway’s East Guide levee
Continue on the levee road for appx. 2.5 miles.
This is a shell road, but it will be graded before your arrival.
You will be forced to turn off the levee to travel under a railroad trestle and the I-10 overpass.
You will see everything once you pass under I-10!
Directions from N. Causeway Blvd to the Bonnet Carre Spillway
1. Merge onto I-10 W toward BATON ROUGE. 7.7 miles
2. Merge onto I-310 S via EXIT 220 toward BOUTTE/HOUMA. 2.9 miles
3. Merge onto AIRLINE HWY/US-61 via EXIT 2 toward NORCO 6.5 miles
4. Pass by the chemical plants and on your left you will see the Spillway Bar and a Shell Station. Directly across the street from the Shell Station is the Spillway’s East Guide Levee. Turn right onto the levee and drive 2.5 miles following the levee road underneath I-10 to Lake Pontchartrain and you will see Wetland Watchers Park on your right!
Norco Resident Milton Cambre Recognized with “Spirit of the Wetlands” Award: Award Named in His Honor to be Presented Annually Through the Wetland Watchers Project!
caption id=”attachment_508″ align=”aligncenter” width=”374″ caption=”Norco resident, Mr. Milton Cambre recently holding the trophy after being honored by having a new annual award created in his honor and being the first recipient of the Milton L. Cambre Spirit of the Wetlands award that recognizes people in the community that go above and beyond volunteering to improve their community and environment. Photo by Irvin Weber”][/caption]
Norco resident, Milton Cambre was recently awarded the first annual “Spirit of the Wetlands” award. Mr. Cambre has been an advocate of conserving and restoring the LaBranche Wetlands for over 40 years. He recognized early on how important the wetland area is to our community and has backed up his beliefs with action. Mr. Cambre worked with the local industry and government to rebuild and protect acres of wetlands along the Lake Pontchartrain shoreline. He never turns down a chance to mentor young people in various environmental projects. He often takes photographers, educators, and other interested visitors on tours throughout the area sharing his years of knowledge of how things used to be and his hope of how things can be. Most recently, Mr. Cambre has spent countless hours working with the St. Charles Parish Recreation Department and the Sheriff’s Office building a wooden boardwalk nature trail at Wetland Watchers Park. “Some people my age ride bikes or walk to stay active” laughs the 74 years young Cambre, “I keep in shape by building nature trails.” Most importantly he has served as a role model for thousands of students through the Wetland Watchers Service-Learning Project. The Hurst Middle Wetland Watchers Service-Learning Project and the St. Charles Parish Schools Satellite Center are teaming up to sponsor the “Milton L. Cambre Spirit of the Wetlands” award that annually recognizes people in our region that go above and beyond volunteering for the improvement of our community and our environment. “I often tell people that Mr. Milton is the spirit of the Wetland Watchers Project.” said Hurst teacher Barry Guillot who created the Wetland Watchers Project 12 years ago, “Mr. Milton is the spirit of wetland conservation and a model of environmental volunteerism. Mr. Milton is my hero and I cannot think of anyone more deserving to have an environmental award named in their honor.” Guidelines and a nomination form for the 2010 Milton L Cambre Spirit of the Wetlands award will be released in August 2010 and will be presented at the Wetlands Reveillon in December 2010.[
Gator Aid – Alabama Artist, Celebrities Support Wetland Watchers Service-Learning Project
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Birmingham artist Don Stewart has teamed up with an energetic group of middle school students, creating a new piece of art that will help restore part of the LaBranche Wetlands along the shores of Lake Ponchartrain.
The seventh and eighth graders of Harry Hurst Middle School in Destrehan, LA are working to preserve and expand the wetlands in their area through activities integrated into the curriculum led by award-winning science teacher, Barry Guillot.
“Mr. Barry discovered my work hanging in the LaPlace McDonald’s restaurant, and contacted me about doing something to promote the Wetland Watchers project,” Stewart said. Last April Mr. Guillot invited Stewart to visit the school, and see the wetland restoration project firsthand. “The kids asked me to come up with an alligator picture made out of things native to the wetlands and to the New Orleans area to help raise awareness for the importance of Louisiana wetlands to the rest of the nation,” said Stewart. “They gave me a long list of items that they would like to see in the design, and I started working from their suggestions.””. Composite refers to the artist’s characteristic drawing style, creating large pictures from a number of smaller images. The Gator Aid drawing includes over 100 items including a street car, po-boy, French Quarter balconies, local sports teams, and a wide variety of fish, birds, and other wildlife!
“Don Stewart has created a masterpiece with the Gator Aid drawing! Everybody that sees it is so excited because it is creative, it is beautiful, and it includes so many items that represent who we are and where we live. It has a little of everything for all people that love Louisiana, New Orleans, and the beautiful wetlands that we have here! Mr. Don has created a work of art that inspires pride for our local population reminding us of all the great things that we have here and will serve as a wonderful ambassador for Louisiana wetlands around the nation” says Hurst teacher Barry Guillot.
During the visit, some of the students wanted to know how Stewart creates his drawings, so he has been keeping them up to date on the project, sending sketches by e-mail to show them how the drawing is developing, step by step. Guillot created a web page detailing the progress of the drawing, from initial sketches to the finished composite:
Prints of the Gator Aid drawing will be released on December 6th, at the Wetlands Reveillon which is a fundraising gala at the Destrehan Plantation’s Mule Barn coordinated by Hahnville and Destrehan High students through their work at the St. Charles Parish Schools’ Satellite Center. Half of the proceeds from print sales will be donated to support the students work with creating interpretive materials for Wetland Watchers Watchers Park.
In addition, a number of celebrities with New Orleans connections will be signing copies of Stewart’s drawing, which will be auctioned at the fundraiser. Chef Emeril Lagasse, musicians Dr. John and Branford Marsalis, and exercise guru Richard Simmons have all agreed to autograph Gator Aid prints, in support of the Wetland Watchers program.
The Wetlands Reveillon will include an incredible dinner created by the Satellite Center’s culinary team, entertainment by Amanda Shaw and the Cute Guys, the release of Don Stewart’s Gator Aid drawing, and a silent auction including works of art, a kayak filled with fishing gear, signed sports memorabilia, and package deals for local restaurants and tours! More information about the Wetlands Reveillon can be found at awetlandsreveillon.org. Information about purchasing a Gator Aid print after December 6th can be found at dsart.com.
The Hurst Middle Wetland Watchers participated in the NBA New Orleans Hornets Save the Wetlands Night at the New Orleans Arena! 216 students, teachers, and their families as well as partners from the Destrehan WISE Club and the Satellite Center had a fantastic time at the game against the LA Clippers. 60 of the Hurst students were able to go on the court to high five the players pregame and half time and our students were on the huge screen 3 times during the night hamming it up! Wetland Watchers Coordinator, Hurst teacher Barry Guillot, was interviewed by Joe Block as a guest on the Hornets radio half time show.
Mrs. Rexford’s seventh grade science students attended their first Wetland Watchers Service-Learning trip of the year participating in stations including physical, chemical, and biological water quality testing, planting cypress trees, touring the nature trail, participating in a GPS scavenger hunt, and hands-on opportunities with Louisiana’s most famous reptiles including an alligator, a corn snake, box turtles, and an alligator snapping turtle! We had wonderful volunteers from Dow Chemical and the Motiva Refinery facilitating stations. This is also the first time we had former Wetland Watcher students that are now part of the Destrehan High WISE Club (Wildcats Interested In Saving the Environment) facilitating stations! It was na impressive group of Wetland Watchers alumni taking part including 2 students who had spoken with me in Philadelphia, 6 students who had been on Radio Disney with me, and a student whose picture is in the Heroes of the Environment book! The WISE Club is providing an opportunity for our Hurst Middle students to continue participating in service-learning activities on the high school level!
Wetland Watchers Receive Grant Award and Present at Brown Foundation Service-Learning Kick-off Event!
Hurst Middle School Wetland Watchers received $3,555 through grants from the Joe W. and Dorothy Dorsett Brown Foundation to fund school service-learning projects. Students and teachers were able to attend the Brown Foundation Service-Learning Celebration which involved over 1,000 students and teachers from 9 Louisiana parishes.