Wetland Watchers wins national award

Hurst Middle school program nets $10,000

From a crowded field of worthy entrants, the LaBranche Wetland Watchers, an outdoor educational program for Harry Hurst Middle School, won the 2006 National Silver Star, a $10,000 prize. The prize was awarded at the American Association of School Administrators’ annual meeting in San Diego.

Seventh grade science teacher Barry Guillot created the program in 1998, which takes students from classroom to the field, allowing them opportunity to participate in wetland restoration. This gives the students a chance to help the community while receiving academic enrichment.

In light of Hurricane Katrina, the program also educates the students on one of Louisiana and St. Charles Parish’s most pressing issues, wetland preservation.

Wetland Watchers takes thousands of area students to the Bonne Carre Spillway, where they monitor water quality, identify soil and plants, plant trees and pick up litter and debris. On an educational level, the activities are tied to and meet academic standards, thus educating the students while increasing environmental awareness.

Sodexho USA and the AASA sponsor the Silver Star, and, out of 34 other entries from around the country, the Harry Hurst program was chosen. AASA Director Paul Houston said “The National Civic Star awards program recognizes that the vitality of a community is intricately linked to the success of its schools in educating children to be productive citizens,” adding, “LeBranche Wetlands program is a perfect example of this partnership at work.”

Superintendent Dr. Rodney Lafon said that the award was an honor, as the money will be split between the district scholarship fund and the general district use.

“We could have never done this without the support of the St. Charles Parish School Board; it takes a lot of faith for them to allow 150 middle school kids to go out into the wetlands,” said Guillot, adding that with that commitment, the kids have made a difference in their community.


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