Dr. Pam Blanchard is one of five people in the nation to receive a National Wetlands Award from the Environmental Law Institute, which honors excellence in wetlands conservation. Blanchard was honored on May 11, 2016, at the U.S. Botanic Garden in Washington D.C.
Blanchard, School of Education Associate Professor, received the Education and Outreach Award for demonstrating extraordinary commitment to our nation’s wetlands. Blanchard co-founded the LSU Coastal Roots Seedling Nursery Program (CR) in 2000 to educate students and teachers on coastal issues and sustainability, and to engage students in restoration projects.
The Coastal Roots Program began with school-based plant nurseries at six schools located within the Louisiana coastal zone.
Coastal Roots has grown to include...
Coastal Roots empowers students from second through twelfth grade to become environmental stewards, helping them to develop solutions to the problems affecting local wetlands with hands-on experiences in degraded wetland areas. These students’ teachers work to connect the classroom curriculum to what the students learn through participation in the CR Program.
Each year, students learn to manage a plant nursery installed at their school, grow native plants, and participate on restoration trips to a coastal forest or beach. Students oversee the entire growth cycle, from seed germination to the planting of one-year-old seedlings on their yearly restoration trip.
Teachers and students install a “can yard,” which is an area where plants are raised until they are large enough to be moved to their final planting location. These can yards are a school-based effort to restore the wetlands, can by can, tree by tree. Students watch over their wetland tree seedlings and grass plugs until late fall, when the seedlings are between 10 and 20 inches tall. At that time, the students will transplant their crop of restoration plants to areas that need restoration help because of storm damage, habitat destruction, or significant erosion. Restoration sites include state parks, hurricane protection levees, city parks, conservation areas, wildlife refuges, and private property.
Both Louisiana and Chile experience coastal damage from natural disasters, giving students from both areas immediate common ground, even though they live 4,790 miles apart.
In October of 2013, Blanchard and Ed Bush, Associate Professor of Horticulture at LSU’s School of Soil, Plant, and Environmental Sciences and Co-director of Coastal Roots, flew to Colegio Concepcion de San Pedro de la Paz and installed Coastal Root’s first international nursery. In 2014 - 2015, two additional nurseries were installed in Santiago, Chile: Southern Cross School and Colegio de los Sagrados Corazones de Manquehure, and another nursery was added in Concepcion: Kingston College.
Blanchard and Bush have written the Coastal Roots Handbook, which contains information from A-Z on how to construct a plant nursery, where to get seed, which species to choose and education materials to teach about it. It also includes pages teachers can copy and use, as well as information on potential grants to fund or supplement their school nursery. It is currently being translated into Spanish and the first page will be available in 20 languages online.
“Pam designed the program so the students would feel stewardship over their efforts, while many returning to ‘their’ restoration site over the years to keep an eye on their cypress trees,” said John White, LSU Professor of Oceanography & Coastal Sciences. “These students are vested from the moment the seeds go into pots through their labor the many months it takes to water and care for them, until that exciting day when they tromp from the confines of their classroom to the wetlands to personally set out the plants to help save their coastal wetlands. This innovative program serves both to educate and inspire a generation to care about and care for our precious wetlands. For most, this would be a full-time job, but Pam does all this based on her 20% service effort at the University on top of her teaching, student advising and other research and educational activities which clearly demonstrates how much of her personal time goes into her wetlands passion.”
Students from St. Martin Episcopal (Metairie) carrying a tray of their cypress seedlings to plant. 2007. Photo: Pam Blanchard.
Pictured here is a student showing off her newly planted seedling in Grand Isle, La.
Pictured here is the reuseable "cans" that seedlings grow in until they are mature enough to be planted.
“My students and I have worked closely with Dr. Blanchard as they explored the importance of the wetland ecosystems that surround the greater New Orleans area, learned about the cases of coastal land loss in Louisiana, and created solutions to reforest degraded bottomland hardwood forest and swamp areas,” said Jennifer C. Williams, Department of Chair Lower School Science, Isidore Newman School.
Isidore Newman School has been a part of the LSU Coastal Roots network of schools since 2008. More than 1,500 students from four different grade levels, along with more than 400 parents and grandparents, have ventured into damaged wetland areas at Jean Lafitte National Park and Bonnet Carre’ Spillway to replant and help restore these areas with the trees they have grown in the outdoor classroom.
“These trips and wetland learning opportunities provided through the curriculum developed by Dr. Blanchard are so valuable to my students’ education, since my school is in an urban setting and my students have limited knowledge and contact with nature,” said Williams. “The program has opened the eyes of my students to the importance of environmental stewardship.”
“The LSU Coastal Roots Program has provided thousands of students and teachers with the opportunity to make a genuine difference in the unique environment of our state. Life-long lessons of environmental responsibility and conservation will help our state continue as natural paradise. We are learning to 'think globally and act locally,' " said Linda Gauthier, teacher at St. Louis, King of France School, Baton Rouge, La.
“I get to work with some of the most generous, creative, and hard-working teachers there are! They are the ones that help their students understand the value of our coastal resources and why we should all do our part to care for these fragile ecosystems.” –Pam Blanchard
The LSU Coastal Roots Program is integrated into curriculum in many ways. It is an ideal vehicle to learn about science concepts related to plant growth (life science), constructive and destructive forces at work on the Earth’s surface (Earth science), and ecology and ecosystems of coastal habitats (life & environmental science). Other connections exist with mathematics and geography. Students in different educational settings participate in this program. For instance, most school nurseries are under the direction of biology, Earth, or environmental science teachers, while in a few schools the social studies, English, or agricultural science teachers are the main point of contact. In others, environmental science clubs organize the participation.
Recipients of the 2016 National Wetlands Awards have truly made a difference in protecting and restoring these vital natural resources that filter pollutants from our waterways, recharge our aquifers, provide essential habitat to wildlife, buffer coastal storms, reduce the threat of floods, and protect biodiversity.
The National Wetlands Awards program is administered by the Environmental Law Institute and supported by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Natural Resources Conservation Service, U.S. Forest Service, NOAA Fisheries, and the Federal Highway Administration. ELI coordinates the awards program, while the federal agency partners provide financial support, serve on the selection committee, or participate in the ceremony. For more information about the National Wetlands Awards program, visit the website at www.nationalwetlandsawards.org.
The Environmental Law Institute makes law work for people, places, and the planet. With its non-partisan, independent approach, ELI promotes solutions to tough environmental problems. The Institute’s unparalleled research and highly respected publications inform the public debate and build the institutions needed to advance sustainable development.
The Environmental Law Institute (ELI) fosters innovative, just, and practical law and policy solutions to challenging environmental issues, through nonpartisan research, publications, and outreach.
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