Harry Hurst Middle plants over 140 trees

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 5, 2011

During a recent Wetland Watchers Service-Learning trip, Harry Hurst seventh-graders planted over 140 cypress and swamp maples seedlings around parts of Wetland Watchers Park. All of the cypress seedlings were grown on the Harry Hurst campus through the LSU Coastal Roots Program. “Over 500 of the seeds planted by last year’s eighth-grade students grew to healthy seedlings that our current eighth-graders will plant this year,” said Hurst teacher Barry Guillot. “Coastal Roots is such a great program for the students both in its connection to academic standards as well as connections to possible solutions to Louisiana coastal land loss.”  

Many students are often curious about how many seedlings actually survive once they are transplanted at a restoration site or how big their trees might be in a year or two.

“These are actually great scientific questions and ones we can answer by designing a scientific research study and a method to collect data” said Dr. Pam Blanchard, director of the LSU Coastal Roots Program, “Our new restoration research takes advantage of a great opportunity to integrate the use technology and the math concept of measurement by using calipers to measure seedling stem diameter, a measuring tape to measure height and a GPS unit to gather latitude and longitude information.” 

Students will enter their tagged seedling data into an online database on the LSU Coastal Roots website.

During next year’s restoration trip, student teams can track the tagged trees to

see if they survived and if they did, how much they grew over the intervening year. This new seedling data can be entered into the online database and students will be able to follow the growth of some of our seedlings. Students will also learn that not all the seedlings survive, which in turn, can lead to many new questions about what makes some seedlings more likely to survive and thrive and others die. 

“This is how science really works,” said Blanchard. “Looking at the world around us and asking questions that are important to us, and figuring out a way to find the answer.”

“What I like most about this newest addition to the Coastal Roots Program”

said Blanchard, “is that these students have raised these seedlings from a

seed and have carefully cared for their seedlings over the year, have finally transplanted their seedling crop at a restoration site, and now they can continue to follow that seedling as it struggles to survive.” 

Students can learn that questions that they generated based on their own curiosity about the real world can be answered. It just takes a bit of math, some data recording and some help from technology. It is a great opportunity to help students understand that their stewardship is an important contribution to the state, and now they can also contribute by doing real research to answer important, real questions.

“This year, Harry Hurst Middle was the first to pilot the revised Coastal Roots Tagged Seedling Project activity,” continued Blanchard. “The project will continue to be tweaked until we find what works best for the students.”