Southeastern Section - 54th Annual Meeting (March 17–18, 2005)

Paper No. 6
Presentation Time: 2:40 PM


MAYGARDEN, Dinah F., Pontchartrain Institute for Environmental Sciences, Univ of New Orleans, Rm 349 CERM building, 2000 Lakeshore Drive, New Orleans, LA 70148 and GORDON, Heather L., Pontchartrain Institute for Environmental Sciences, Univ of New Orleans, Rm 349 CERM Building, 2000 Lakeshore Drive, New Orleans, LA 70148,

With its on-going rapid rates of land loss due to both natural geology-based and human induced causes, coastal Louisiana faces a crisis of national proportions. This presents a challenge to educators and the academic community to help people understand the underlying causes of the coastal land loss issue and the possible solutions and restoration options. It is a responsibility of geoscience education programs to reach out to the community and meet this need.

The Coastal Wetlands Education Program at the University of New Orleans provides opportunities for pre-college students and teachers to learn about the fragile coastal systems close to their homes through field experiences. In addition, this program produces interpretive materials for public distribution. Two components of the program are the school-year day-long field trips for middle and high school students and the summer program for high school students.

The first of these two components reinforces concepts learned in the classroom through a visit to local wetlands. This experience typically enhances a unit on coastal wetlands taught in school by the teacher. The summer program for high school students brings together a diverse group of mostly minority students to focus on coastal issues for two to three weeks. The students travel to many locations in southeastern Louisiana to learn about the causes of and solutions to coastal land loss. A large focus is on the rapidly eroding shoreline and the barrier islands, with visits to the barrier islands Grand Isle and Trinity Island. Here they learn about the variety of techniques used to attempt to control erosion and restore the islands. The students learn methods of measurement for quantifying changes taking place on the shoreline, including the measurement of a beach profile using Jacob staffs. This profile measurement is incorporated into the long-term data collected and compared year to year by the students. The students also learn about the power of maps and Geographic Information Systems for understanding our imperiled coast.

This program sparks the curiosity of these young people and creates a foundation on which to build future layers of earth and environmental science learning. Our long-term goal is to stimulate a life long interest in earth and environmental sciences.