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South Louisiana Wetlands Discovery Center

Name of centre: South Louisiana Wetlands Discovery Center

Name of organisation: South Louisiana Wetlands Discovery Center

Funding support: Donations, Grants and Fundraisers

Number of staff: 3

Number of visitors per year: We work with over 1,200 students per year.

Overall aims of the centre

The mission of the South Louisiana Wetlands Discovery Center is to revolutionize how we think, teach and learn about Louisiana’s disappearing coast.  .

Description of the centre

The rapid loss of the Louisiana coastline over the past decades has become an increasing concern for her coastal citizens. Many of these citizens are students, and these students represent the future of the state. At the Wetlands Discovery Center, we are working with these students, educating them about the rapidly changing coastal wetlands while building critical thinking and reasoning skills. Reaching 1,200 students, our programs serve to reconnect students with our coastal wetlands. Our World Wetlands Day and Summer Camps serve to educate students on the various aspects of Louisiana’s coastal wetlands while connecting these students with professionals actively working along the coast. Our Coastal Classroom program works to bring the wetlands into the classroom by integrating wetlands education with the current science standards.

Main CEPA work areas

Using our programs in policy, science, technology, engineering and math, we work to inspire the next generation of environmental leaders to develop innovative ways to communicate, respond and adapt to the changing landscape of our region. Because Southeast Louisiana is one of the most rapidly changing areas of the world, we have a responsibility to educate and empower our students to be creative problem solvers.

Top three successes

1. Vanishing Points™ is a web app that enables community members in Terrebonne and Lafourche Parishes to identify points of cultural significance that are threatened due to land subsidence, sea level rise and coastal erosion. In efforts to document our threatened culture, students and community members log memories, interviews and photos of places that have defined their community for generations, but are now disappearing. By bringing community and national attention to the societal impacts of this loss, the smart phone application encourages advocacy for the protection of the land and, most importantly, our culture. Land loss in this region is often depicted solely in maps; however, they are unable to capture the harmful social effects of the disappearing land. As a result, Vanishing Points™ addresses this issue by mapping locations of cultural significance.  Not only does it identify these locations, the application also tells their stories through the voices of the community members themselves.  Historical and current pictures are also included to show the true geomorphology of the land as opposed to what is portrayed on maps.  Vanishing Points™ serves the overarching purpose of recording the culture of the people by the people to help future generations embrace and be proud of the unique culture of Southern Louisiana. The purpose of this project is to preserve this information for future generations of bayou residents while sharing noteworthy stories of a people threatened by coastal land loss with the rest of the world.

2. Our media literacy program is called “iRestore.” The goal of this program is to create an opportunity for students to gain the communicating, problem-solving, and decision-making skills necessary for living in a 21st century learning environment.  Students not only become creators of media pieces, but they also become educated consumers of media through this process.  This goal is achieved through the production of three minute, high-quality videos that investigate the importance of youth engagement relating to issues of coastal restoration in order to build resilient communities for the future.

3. The purpose of the Wetland Youth Summit is to bring student leaders together quarterly to discuss important issues relating to coastal restoration and preservation within the Barataria-Terrebonne Estuary.  The Wetlands Discovery Center has identified the need to develop the environmental literacy skills and understanding of young leaders capable of influencing positive change into the future in efforts to fortify our communities and protect our estuary.  The day-long summits begin with a breakfast/registration period allowing time for the arrival of students followed by an official welcome, introductions and a brief orientation on the day’s activities.  Students then participate in a series of workshops throughout the day allowing time for breaks and lunch.  At the end of the summit, the Wetlands Discovery Center leads a one hour session that focuses on the students’ findings and conclusions from the day.  Major points from this general discussion are recorded so that recommendations can be made to the appropriate agencies.  A student evaluation is also done during this time in order to gather useful data to develop more effective programs in the future.

Top three challenges

1. Implementing programs without a facility of our own has been a challenge, but we have developed many meaningful relationships with other agencies that allow us to use their facilities. This also gives us good reason to hold a capital campaign to construct our proposed campus.

2. Louisiana’s problem of coastal land loss is a complex and time sensitive issue. We do our best to break down the scientific research to educate our students about the loss of Louisiana’s coastline.

3. The need to raise funds through grants, soliciting donations, and fundraisers is a very time consuming process.

Interpretation techniques

Producing written materials; Developing nature trails

Visitor centres

Setting up a new visitor centre

Participation

Engaging young people; Working with volunteers; Working with disabled people; Engaging hard-to-reach groups; Engaging the local community

Education and communication

Delivering adult education; Working with secondary schools; developing resources/materials

General

Auditing/assesssing effectiveness; Running effective administration; Fund-raising; PR and MArketing; Health and Safety; Project planning

Jonathan Foret, 7910 West Park Avenue, Houma, LA 70364, jforet@slwdc.org, 001-985-580-7289

Website address:

www.slwdc.org

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