AMERICA' S WETLAND YOUTH PATCH PROGRAM (AGES 7-11)
What are wetlands, and why are they important? These important natural systems-such as marshes and swamps-are places where land and water come together, and special plants and animals live in both. In Louisiana, we have more wetlands than most states and many countries, but it is still vital that we understand them. These coastal wetlands in Louisiana are truly America’s WETLAND.
Louisiana is facing a wetlands crisis of global proportions. Our coastal wetlands are disappearing at a rapid rate. These marshes and swamps that lie between coastal cities and communities and the Gulf of Mexico are too important to lose – so Louisiana is letting the nation know that we’ve got to save “America’s WETLAND” (http://www.americaswetland.com.
We benefit from wetlands in many ways, and this special activity patch will help you understand how wetlands are important for us.
Warning: You need to be careful when visiting wetlands. There is potential for accidents, such as falling in the water, or encountering a venomous snake. Never go alone to a wetland – always visit with a supervised group.
America’s WETLAND Resource Center: your source of information.
Your source of information to help you complete this patch program is contained elsewhere in your America’s WETLAND Resource Center.
Your America’s WETLAND Journal: the place you must record all your observations and learnings.
All activities should be recorded in your wetlands journal, which you will turn in to your group leader before qualifying to receive your America’s WETLAND patch.
Patch Activities: What are wetlands?
Wetlands are areas that are under shallow water all or much of the time. Wetlands in regions that get only a little rain may actually be dry part of the year, but all wetlands hold enough water to be home to special plants that are found only in these habitats. Different types of wetlands include bogs, marshes, and swamps. They are all interesting and important places that we should learn more about.
- Obtain a National Wetlands Inventory Map ( see http://wetlands.fws.gov; http://www.nationalmap.usgs.gov) for the area in which you live (or in which your group meets). Learn how to read the map. How many wetlands are in your area? What kind are they? How big are they? Which one is closest to your home/meeting place? Where are most of the wetlands in Louisiana found?
- Visit a wetland area. Most cities in Louisiana have nature centers or parks that feature wetlands. A partial list of them include:
Alexandria - CENLA Pride STAR Center
Baton Rouge - Bluebonnet Swamp Nature Center
Hammond - Southeast Louisiana University Outdoor Learning Center
Lafayette - Acadiana Park Nature Station
Mandeville - Northlake Nature Center
New Orleans - Audubon Louisiana Nature Center
Shreveport - Walter B. Jacobs Memorial Nature Park
Villa Platte - Louisiana State Arboretum
Pick a spot, about 30 or 40 feet square, where you are able to sit quietly, comfortably, and safely. Observe and note: how many and what kinds of animals you see, how many and what kinds of plants you see, what the soil looks like, and the amount and location of water. Record these observations in your America’s WETLAND journal.
Using what you’ve learned about what defines coastal wetlands, describe how they are different from other water bodies, list and/or describe the similarities and differences between wetlands and these other bodies of water. You may use both words and pictures to create a booklet or set of posters, then share them with your school, library, nature center or at some other community location.
Patch Activities: What is happening in America’s WETLAND?
America’s WETLAND is being lost at an alarming rate. The causes are both natural and from human activity. None of the human causes were intentional (we built levees to protect ourselves from floods, but they cut off the natural overflows that replaced subsided soils in the marshes; we got oil from the wetlands, but the canals that were built allowed salt water to kill vegetation), but they have increased the loss of our valuable America’s WETLAND.
To learn about this loss, go to http://www.loyno.edu/~awresctr/newsite/background_facts/detailedstory/causes.html
Patch Activities: Wetlands Functions
Wetlands are important because they’re wet! They hold water that could otherwise cause floods, they protect coastal cities from hurricane damage, they provide a home for animals and plants that live in wetlands, and they serve as an important source of food and shelter for animals that graze, hunt, or hide in wetlands.
1. Learn about foods that people grow in wetlands. Help prepare and eat a wetlands feast with foods from wetlands such as seafood, wild game, wild rice, etc. for your group or family. Explain to your guests how each food originates in wetlands.
2. Learn about the functions that wetlands serve by reading a book from the library, visiting a wetlands or nature center, and/or searching the internet. Using words and pictures, describe how wetlands function like each of the following: a sponge, a coffee filter, a bird house, a grocery store, a hotel, a bag of rice, a small pillow, a strainer.
3. When you turn your faucet on, water comes out. But where does it come from and where does it go? Draw a picture illustrating the source of your water, including all the areas it flows through to reach you, and where it goes once it leaves your sink. Does it flow through a wetlands along it’s journey? If so, what do you think the wetlands does to that water? A call to your local water authority may be very helpful for this activity.
Patch Activities: Wetlands & People
Wetlands are important to people, but in many places the understanding of this important connection has been lost. By talking to people who work with wetlands as part of their job, and to other people who may not have any experience with wetlands, you can start to understand the different ways that we view wetlands in our society.
1. Find out about an earlier culture that depended on wetlands, such as the native peoples in southern Louisiana. Describe your findings with words and pictures. Where and when did this culture exist? How did they use wetlands? What sort of houses did they have? What food did they eat? How did they get around in wetlands?
2. Select one wetlands area for which you can find the history of the area. How have the wetlands changed or been affected over the years? Imagine what the wetlands were like 100 years or more ago and what the area will be like 100 years from now. Describe your ideas with words and pictures.
Qualifying for your America’s WETLAND Patch
For Leaders: The following questions should be answered verbally by youth when they present their wetland journal to their group leader for evaluation.
- What are wetlands?
- Name 3 reasons wetlands are important to people?
- What are 3 reasons that make America’s Wetland – coastal Louisiana – so important to our state and nation?
- What is the most important thing you learned studying America’s WETLAND?
Acknowledgments: AW thanks Lee Scioneaux for his work designing this patch program. His first draft was edited by Doug Daigle and Robert A. Thomas.