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 Coordinator Featured in New Book: Harry Hurst teacher gets ‘animated’ for environment
Harry Hurst teacher gets ‘animated’ for environment
By Jonathan Menard – Sep 03, 2009
When Harry Hurst science teacher Barry Guillot talks about the Wetland Watchers, he usually gets pretty animated, but it’s hard to imagine he ever envisioned himself as a cartoon in a book about environmental heroes.
The book, which can be found at libraries and stores throughout the country, tells the true story of 12 people across North America who have done great things for the environment. Heroes include a teenage girl who figured out how to remove an industrial pollutant from the Ohio River, a Mexican superstar wrestler who works to protect turtles and whales, and a teenage boy from Rhode Island who helped his community and his state develop effective e-waste recycling programs.
Chapter 10 in the book deals with Guillot and his Wetland Watchers. He is the only teacher featured.
“It is such a huge honor to be recognized in this fashion,” Guillot said. “I hope that in some way our story will inspire other teachers and students to learn more about service-learning and get involved with their community the way my students have.”
Guillot is responsible for founding the Wetland Watchers, which is a service-learning program that was started in 1997 to immerse students in science while learning about the value of the wetlands.
Over the years, the Wetland Watchers have participated in tree planting, water-quality testing and litter removal and have also adopted 28 acres of land in the parish.
That land is now designated as Wetland Watcher Park.
For six straight years, the program has been recognized as an American Leadership Model Project by the Lieutenant Governor’s Louisiana Serve Commission.
The author of the book, Harriet Rohmer, heard about the Wetland Watchers after reading an article about Guillot on the Teacher Heroes site of The George Lucas Educational Foundation. Rohmer said she read the whole profile and was “totally amazed.”
“I wanted to include a teacher, especially a middle school science teacher, because teachers are so important in shaping the lives of kids and thereby determining what sort of society we’re going to have 15 or 20 years down the road,” she said. “Then I read about Barry, and I knew immediately that he was a model teacher.”
Rohmer was reading the profiles to specifically find a teacher who was making a difference in both the classroom and the community.
“His work of helping kids protect the wetlands around New Orleans struck me as exciting and important – and something that all kids could relate to, even if they’d never seen a wetland,” she said.
In fact, Rohmer ends the book with a section called “How You Can Get Involved,” which encourages kids to look for projects that could help their communities, to learn how nature works, and to help with clean ups and tree plantings.
“Following the examples of people like Barry and his students,” Rohmer said.
In the chapter dealing with the Wetland Watchers and Guillot, the teacher appears as both a cartoon and in a real photo. There are also two photos that feature a total of eight Harry Hurst students.
The book, which retails on Amazon.com for $13.25, can be found in local libraries and book stores in the surrounding area.
Read More Stories at HeraldGuide.com!
During 2009, Dave McNamara of Bayou Digital Media partnered with WWL-TV in New Orleans to create a series of half-hour television programs as part of the station’s “Green” initiative.
The programs included segments on restoring Louisiana’s fragile wetlands, a vital step for hurricane protection. Also part of the programs are features on renewable energy and sustainable living.
This segment features a remarkable program at the Harry Hurst Middle School in St. Charles Parish. The teenaged “Wetland Watchers” hold their science class in the Labranche wetlands where they get hands-on environmental training under the guidance of teacher Barry Guillot. The kids pass along their knowledge of the wetlands to students who visit from other schools in the region.
This video is online at the link below!
LABRANCHE WETLAND WATCHERS AND TEACHER BARRY GUILLOT WIN TWO 2004 1ST PLACE GULF GUARDIAN AWARDS! WATCH THE DOCUMENTARY CREATED BY THE EPA!
WE WERE HONORED TO RECEIVE TWO 1ST PLACE GULF GUARDIAN AWARDS IN 2004. BELOW IS THE PRESS RELEASE WITH THE INFORMATION AND THE GREAT VIDEO THAT THEY CREATED ABOUT US!
STENNIS SPACE CENTER, Miss. – The Gulf of Mexico Program today presented the LaBranche Wetland Watchers with a first place Gulf Guardian Award for 2004 in the Youth and Education Category. As a double honor, the Wetland Watchers’ coordinator, Barry Guillot, also received the 2004 first place Gulf Guardian Award in the individual category. The award ceremony was held aboard the Creole Queen Riverboat in New Orleans, La.
The LaBranche Wetland Watchers is a school-based service-learning project designed to integrate environmental issues into the curriculum. More than 3,800 fifth through seventh grade students have participated in service trips to and adopted sites near the Bonnet Carre Spillway. Students plan and participate in activities such as water quality monitoring, macro-invertebrate collection and identification, litter clean-ups, soil and plant identification, tree planting, and mapping out a public nature trail.
Students have spoken to more than 40,000 people across southeastern Louisiana. Through education, service, and awareness, students led a community effort for wetland conservation. The service site has exhibited some of the greatest amount of land loss along the Lake Pontchartrain shoreline. It faces development problems with a proposed airport, has huge litter and dumping problems, and suffers greatly from salt water intrusion. It is the focus of many federal and state restoration projects and refinery mitigation projects and serves as a microcosm of problems that wetlands are facing locally and globally. The primary objective of the LaBranche Wetland Watchers is to encourage wetland conservation through Education, Service, and Awareness.
Barry Guilllot, a seventh-grade science teacher, worked with his students to create the LaBranche Wetland Watchers project in 1998. Guillot is the backbone behind this nationally recognized project that enables more than 1,000 students each year to meet required academic standards through activities that also benefit the environment. To ensure success and funding, Guillot writes grants, gains and maintains partnerships, and coordinates and attends a multitude of functions. According to Leslie Rodrigue of the Cresent Soil and Water Conservation District, without Guillot, there wouldn’t be a Wetland Watchers project. Guillot’s project is one of the finest examples of outdoor education anywhere.
“The LaBranche Wetland Watchers program at Hurst Middle School is a shining example of service-learning excellence in education,” said Louisiana Lieutenant Governor Mitch Landrieu. “Mr. Guillot and his students are to be commended. The Wetlands Watchers program is a true service-learning model, integrating academic objectives and service. The Louisiana Serve Commission, in the Office of the Lieutenant Governor, offers Learn and Serve America grants to encourage and promote programs such as Wetland Watchers. I know that other teachers and students throughout Louisiana will be inspired after learning about the great work of Mr. Guillot and his caring group of young people,” added Landrieu.
The Gulf of Mexico Program initiated the Gulf Guardian awards in 2000 as a way to recognize and honor the businesses, community groups, individuals, and agencies that are taking positive steps to keep the Gulf healthy, beautiful and productive. The Gulf of Mexico Program began in 1988 to protect, restore, and maintain the health and productivity of the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem in economically sustainable ways. Award entries were received from Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas. A first, second, and third place award are given each year in six categories – individual, business, youth and education, nonprofit organizations, government, and partnership efforts.
“The Gulf Guardian Award winners for 2004 are prime examples of collaborative environmental efforts leading to neighborhood solutions that transcend political boundaries,” said Benjamin Grumbles, EPA Assistant Administrator for Water in Washington, D.C. “I commend all of the winners for their innovative partnerships, common sense ideas, and hard work. Their efforts are making a difference in protecting and restoring the Gulf of Mexico.
Community Works To Build Nature Trail Boardwalk During Wetland Watchers Park National Make A Difference Day Event!
HMS Wetland Watcher Park Make a Difference Day
It was an overwhelming success! One of the really great aspects of this event was that it featured the partnerships of Learn and Serve America (Hurst Wetland Watchers), Americorps (ShreveCORPS), and the St. Charles Parish Retired Seniors Volunteer Program. All three of our agencies are funded through the Corporation for National and Community Service. The Corporation is the nation’s largest grant-maker supporting service and volunteering. Through the Senior Corps, AmeriCorps, and Learn and Serve America programs, they provide opportunities for Americans of all ages and backgrounds to express their patriotism while addressing critical community needs.
Kenny Guedry, Superintendent of St. Charles Recreation, was instrumental in organizing the construction utilizing the skills of Parish Rec workers as volunteer team leaders.
We got about 200 feet of trail between the two built which is amazing because the water was incredibly high on Friday.
We had approximately 55 volunteers on Friday in different capacities including Americorps ShreveCORPS volunteers from Shreveport, retired Seniors Volunteer Program, Recreation employees, Valero, the St. Charles Parish Rotary Club and other community volunteers. Fourteen volunteers from Johnson Controls of Metairie also worked 9 hours on Friday.
On Saturday, about 43 volunteers representing Americorps, RSVP, Louisiana Serve Commission, Learn and Serve America, St. Charles Recreation, Motiva, the St. Charles Rotary Club, and St. Charles Parish Sheriff’s Office Prison Trustees.
strong>National Science Teachers Association Visits LaBranche Wetland Watchers Park
WATCH THE VIDEO BELOW!!!!!!!!
100 teachers from around the nation that were participants in the National Science Teachers Association convention in New Orleans visited the LaBranche Wetland Watchers Park on the shore of Lake Pontchartrain in St. Charles Parish. Still a work in progress, the park consists of 900 feet of boardwalk through a wetland that, like much of Louisianas wetlands, is struggling to survive. This one, however, has the help of Wetland Watchers, an organization at Destrehan’s Harry Hurst Middle School, teacher Barry Guillot and Guillots partners in the project, including parish government, local universities and industries.
|LaBranche Wetland Watchers Park|
Harry Hurst Teacher Interviewed on New Orleans Radio Talk Show
Harry Hurst teacher Mr. Barry Guillot was recently a guest on 690 am’s Kiss My Gumbo radio talk show hosted by Greta Perry. Guillot was invited on the show to discuss the nationally recognized Wetland Watchers Service-Learning Project that he created 11 years ago, as well as a new partnership with award winning artist Don Stewart from Birmingham, Alabama.
Greta Perry “The Princess of Positive” said about the interview, “It is people like Barry who believes he can make a difference with the youth of America that give us hope for the future. His love of education and his Country is obvious and if even a little bit of that rubs off on his students, they will be fortunate. It was an honor to have him sit with me in my studio (with his 2 handsome sons) as I consider him to be one of Louisiana’s heroes who will continue to make us all proud.”
Jan 24, 2009 podcast
Harry Hurst teacher, Barry Guillot and Alabama Artist, Don Stewart, were recently interviewed as guests on the 690 am Kiss My Gumbo radio talk show hosted by Greta Perry.
Below is the link to listen to the interview. Once the media player comes up, you can slide the dial over to about 28 minutes where the Guillot/ Stewart interview begins.
The first guest is author and LSU graduate, Cesar Guerra. The second half of the show will feature a wonderful and most fabulous artist, Don Stewart.