The Louisiana State University Coastal Roots Program: A School Seedling Nursery Program for Habitat Restoration (LSU Coastal Roots Program) was initiated 1 Jan. 2000 to assist students in Louisiana in developing a positive attitude of stewardship toward Louisiana's coastal resources and to provide a constructive active learning situation in which they can explore strategies for sustaining our coastal ecosystems. School-based nurseries have been constructed for this purpose at 35 public, private, and parochial southern Louisiana schools. Participating teachers represented upper elementary (Grade 3) through high school, and integration of the program was mostly through science classes and extracurricular environmental clubs. Students at participating schools conducted a year-round, ongoing nursery program during which they grew native Louisiana grasses and trees (Table 1) that can be used by students in a hands-on restoration planting field trip 9 months later. Integrated with this hands-on aspect of the program, students learned about nursery maintenance, plant growth, and wetland issues such as coastal land loss, the functions and importance of wetlands to southern Louisiana, how wetlands are being restored as well as other restoration and conservation information.
These tree and grass species have been grown in the Louisiana State University Coastal Roots Program: A School Seedling Nursery Program for Habitat Restoration container yards.z
Louisiana is losing coastal marshes and estuaries at an astounding rate, nearly 10 mile2 per year (M. Ford, personal communication). Although southern Louisiana residents are keenly aware of this fact, sadly, the state of the marshes came into the national spotlight only recently with the coverage of the devastation wrought by the 2005 hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The LSU Coastal Roots Program was initiated long before these storms and its place as an ecological stewardship project is now more important than ever. The project helped educators guide students in exploring why it is important to take environmental action now and to make decisions that will help sustain what is left of our fragile Louisiana coastal plain and ecosystems.
The concept of the LSU Coastal Roots Program is simple. In early spring, students plant seeds of native plants. They maintain the seedlings over the spring semester. The teacher and school control the container yard and the seedlings during the summer to ensure that the irrigation system is working properly and that the plants are healthy. Late during the next fall semester, students travel with their seedlings to a restoration site in need of their seedlings to re-establish the natural habitat in an area that has been suffering from various types of degradation. During the field trip, students can observe the state of the coast and how their efforts model an active stewardship role that others might emulate. Students return to their schools to begin the whole process once again. There is no published curriculum for the project. Teachers integrate the project into their classes and school activities in ways that are age-appropriate and make sense for their particular subject.
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