Monday, May 7, 2012

In the Words of the Educators: A Hands-On Approach to Learning in Southern Louisiana

By Lauren Mahony, Student Teacher, Lehman High School, Bronx, NY

I was always very interested in having a hands-on experience in anything incorporated in science. Since my undergrad is in Biology I am very interested in the environment. Since my Master’s is going to be in science education, I had explained this to Meghan and she invited me on this trip. I was hoping this would help me study the environment as well as bring this experience back into the classroom.

I was very excited about going on this trip. I was looking forward to doing a lot of experiments, but what I got from the trip was a lot more than scientific studies. I have learned so much from the other participants in the trip. Larissa is so passionate about her work and this radiates to the rest of the group. I always knew that Louisiana was devastated by Hurricane Katrina, but I did not realize to what extent until I was in the dirt trying to help the restoration process. The restoration to the homes as well as the land really made it hit home for me. Being in the field and actually seeing the devastation made me realize it was more than just news on the radio and TV.

Aside from this I have learned so much from the other participants of the group. It was great to share this experience with people who shared the same passion as I. This included teaching students and taking an interest in the environment. I would have never thought in a million years I would be bird watching at 6 am, or going to different sites and having the other participants call me over and ask me to share in their passion of bird watching.

It was a pleasure helping the scientists in Louisiana further their research. Being right in the middle of the research really showed me how hard these people are working to save the environment as well as their homes. It is very uncomfortable to see the high waters along the roadside. These people are working so hard to save Louisiana. Labor and assistance from volunteers really helps the cause.

It was explained to me that these are the habitats that we are trying to help and preserve as well as those who live in the affected areas. I never realized the alarming rate Louisiana is sinking until I saw how high the water was in relation to the roads and other various land masses. It was so nice to experience this with people who share the same passion as you. A lot of geeky conversations arose and they were some of the best conversations I have had in a long time. This trip was well planned out and it really was a life changing experience for me. Every time there was a disaster I never thought I could actually make a difference. Sure you send money and then what? To actually be actively doing the labor and learning about the devastation and the solutions was a life changing experience. It really hit home for me the hard work that the people who run these programs do to save Louisiana. Pictures in the paper and the news on the radio cannot compare to the actual experience. I was very grateful for this opportunity.

Everyone who was on the trip was just wonderful. The laughs and the dirt and the lectures were that much more enjoyable because of the people who I shared them with. My hope is for more people to get involved and I will certainly bring this to my classroom so the students are aware and hopefully become an active part in assisting in restoring this devastation.

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