Students with an interest in nature can attend environmentally themed classes from kindergarten through graduation in the Lafayette Parish School System’s environmental science academies.
The system has three schools of choice which focus on the environment, with environmental science academies at L. Leo Judice Elementary, Lafayette Middle and Northside High.
L. Leo Judice is a “wall-to-wall” school of choice without a zone, meaning that all children who attend the school have applied to participate in the program.
“Today children spend very little time outdoors; a large part of their day is spent in front of some type of screen with little interaction with others,” says lead teacher Paula Guidry. “Spending time outdoors increases children’s focus, observation skills, creativity, and appreciation for nature.”
Leo’s teachers use Montessori teaching methods in their classrooms, which generally means a more student-directed and hands-on approach to learning. By taking that learning outside, children also can learn to love nature and to respect the environment, Guidry says.
Leo has an outdoor classroom, a greenhouse and a garden. The students also run a recycling program, and each class has their own pet, which the children learn to care for. The vegetables grown in the school garden are used to feed the class pets, students and faculty.
“Our students get so excited when it is time to dig in and prepare the gardens for planting,” Guidry says.
“The gardens also give the students the chance to watch the life cycles of plants, butterflies, and other insects. Plants attract these visitors that are studied by the students and provide a number of math, language arts and science lessons for the classroom.”
Leo teachers use that interest the children have in the plants and animals to teach them other skills and subjects, Guidry adds.
“Our outdoor classroom provides opportunities for students to develop observation skills, visual spatial skills, mathematical thinking, creativity, and abstract thinking that are needed for success in the classroom,” Guidry explains. “By taking learning outdoors, teachers are able to make learning more meaningful and exciting for students as they integrate nature into all areas of the curriculum.”
Lafayette Middle School is home to the district’s oldest e-science program. The school has its own swamp, an outdoor classroom, a greenhouse, a butterfly dome, working solar panels and a worm farm. There is a menagerie with all sorts of animals, which are cared for by the students.
Stacy Hess, LMS academy director, echoes Guidry’s comments about hands-on activities to keep kids engaged.
“Education today must provide students with real life connections in order to keep them actively involved in the learning process,” Hess says. “When teaching about environmental issues in our own backyards we are making learning relevant to their lives now and their lives in the future as adults.”
Academy students study renewable and non-renewable resources and recycling. They run the school’s recycling program. For the past four years, these students have planted cypress trees at Avery Island as part of a project to restore Louisiana black bear habitat. Academy students also study threats to the state’s coastal wetlands, and travel each summer to Grand Isle to plant black mangrove trees to fight coastal land loss.
Students also study global environmental issues and sustainability, overseeing the school’s worm farm, which turns mountains of shredded paper into an organic fertilizer know as “worm castings,” Hess says.
“We also teach about sustainable fishing practices and aquaculture because overfishing is a problem that not only effects our very own Gulf of Mexico but also the majority of our planet’s oceans,” Hess notes.
LMS hosts an annual Earth Day celebration that has become very popular because of the games and hands-on activities for kids and adults. This year’s event is set for May 1.
The system’s newest e-science program is at Northside. Director Chad Broussard says keeping kids engaged is especially important at the high school level.
“Core content means much more to students when they can apply their knowledge to the environment,” Broussard says. “Geometry in a text book is one thing. Geometry in nature, that brings it to a whole other level of understanding and retention.”
The academy tries to nurture students’ interest in the world around them, he says.
“Students today are not connected to the outdoors; they don’t feel comfortable exploring the unique landscapes and environmental features that have, for a long time, been a part of our unique heritage in south Louisiana,” Broussard says. “One of the biggest benefits is that our students begin posing questions about their environment and have all of the technology or lab equipment they need to conduct real scientific research.”
Academy students at Northside are working on a project to restore native prairie grasses. These students also run a school recycling program, and are planning a garden in their outdoor learning area. The students have their own weather alert system, and have been working with KATC’s Chris Paulsen to learn more about meteorology. They conduct their experiments in a state-of-the-art multimedia lab, and collect specimens in their outdoor classrooms.
Broussard argues that the environmental focus of the three academies has a positive impact beyond the children who attend those classes.
“Our community sees a direct benefit in environmental education, and community partners can gain ownership in our academy through research mentoring, sponsorship, internships, and guest lecturing,” Broussard says. “There is a distinct tangible reward for both the community and the students in that an improved environmental conscience ensures a protected quality of life for the community in the years to come.”
The application for slots in these programs for the 2010-11 school year is now open at www.lafayettechoice.com.
Angie Simoneaux is the LPSS marketing coordinator and a former beat reporter for the Acadiana bureau of The Advocate.
State Rep. Lenar Whitney — one of a handful of Republican candidates vying for Louisiana’s 6th Congressional district — has been described by Cook Political Report analyst David Wasserman as one of the most “frightening or fact-averse candidate[s]” he’s ever met following her reaction to an interview last week.
Mid-August hearing dates have been set for dueling lawsuits over Louisiana's use of the Common Core education standards in public schools.
An investigation into the last-minute passage of a pension hike for the state police superintendent continues, despite Col. Mike Edmonson's decision not to accept the increase.
Safety Jairus Byrd practiced with the New Orleans Saints on Tuesday for the first time since his signing in March.
Sentencing has been delayed for a businessman who provided key testimony in the corruption case that resulted in the conviction of former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin.
The spectre of priest sex abuse has returned to haunt the Roman Catholic Diocese of Lafayette following the recent release of an investigative report by Minnesota Public Radio, revealing new allegations of another child predator hiding behind the clerical collar.
The sponsor of a Louisiana law that requires doctors that perform abortions to have hospital admitting privileges doesn't believe the provision is in jeopardy after a federal appeals court struck down a similar Mississippi law.
Louisiana's state school board has jumped into a lawsuit against Gov. Bobby Jindal that accuses the governor of illegally meddling in education policy through his efforts to block Common Core education standards.
Here's how one nationally recognized conservative political pundit reacted upon hearing the news Monday that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce was leaning toward an endorsement of Louisiana’s lone Democrat senator.
With the qualifying deadline for Lafayette Parish School Board elections quickly approaching, a series of candidate forums have been announced by the Lafayette Parish Public Education Stakeholders Council.
The investigation and potential prosecution of the man charged in the recent hit-and-run death of a Youngsville cyclist won’t happen overnight, according to local law enforcement officials.
Louisiana's state school board is holding a special meeting to consider whether to sue Gov. Bobby Jindal in an ongoing dispute over the Common Core education standards.
A bipartisan congressional deal to help improve veterans' health care access includes approval for new veterans clinics in Lafayette and Lake Charles.
It wouldn’t be a first, however, as the Chamber has thrown money behind Landrieu before.
The Democratic incumbent, seeking her fourth term in office, is a strong supporter of the Export-Import Bank, which helps finance exports of U.S. companies.
The world is a politically tense place these days with hot spots ranging from the Middle East to Ukraine. In Louisiana and Mississippi, where the political chessboard tends to be a lot less threatening and at times entertaining, this election season is living up to expectations.
Louisiana has joined nine other states in support of Indiana’s appeal of a federal judge’s ruling that the Hoosier State’s ban on sam-sex marriage violates the Constitution.
The Saints are being cautious in an effort to minimize risk of re-injury.
LSU Health Sciences Center says people with a common, hard-to-treat kind of lung cancer can join a new national trial to test drugs faster.
As New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton and general manager Mickey Loomis spoke about the opening of training camp, steep, tree-covered mountains were in full view behind them.
The family of fallen cyclist Lon Lomas is speaking out after the release this week of the man charged with his death.
"The solutions are obvious: undo consolidation, or amend the charter to make this hybrid attempt at a new form of government work better."
The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education is considering whether to get involved in a lawsuit against Gov. Bobby Jindal for his attempts to undermine use of the Common Core education standards in Louisiana's public schools.
The latest meeting of a south Louisiana flood board that stirred political turmoil with a lawsuit against the oil and gas industry is taking place amid uncertainty over the future of the lawsuit — and the board's own membership.
The photos taken nearly a mile under the Gulf of Mexico are so clear that small holes are visible in a lifeboat that may have gone down or been scuttled when a passenger ship was sunk by a Nazi submarine in 1942.