St. James students show support for dolphins

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 20, 2013

VACHERIE – Six fourth-graders at the St. James Parish Science and Math Academy, Radyn Boe, Joshua Bourgeois, Adrian Sandoval, Bryce Scott, Zachary Grubbs and Audrey Waguespack, have taken it upon themselves to make a difference in the plight of dolphins who have suffered harm at the hands of humans.
The project began incidentally as the children were covering their desks with newspaper for a painting project.
“We were setting up to paint, and Audrey saw an article in the newspaper about a dolphin getting shot to death at Fourchon Beach,” said 10-year-old Bryce Scott.
Lynn Bolding, an art educator and teacher of the gifted, said the the children were moved to tears by the dolphin’s story and took turns reading it aloud. Bolding then engaged the children in serious discussion about how and why someone might attack a dolphin and what they could do to help. Using their feelings as fuel, the fourth-graders decided to do something worthwhile and commit themselves to the cause of saving dolphins.
The children started small, posting “Save the Dolphins” signs around the school. As they gathered more information about bigger issues such as the recent BP oil spill and its effects on dolphins in the Gulf Coast, it grew a bit more comprehensive. They soon learned about Louie, a young bottlenose dolphin who was found on a Louisiana beach during the oil spill. Louie currently lives at a Florida-area Dolphin Research Center and helps rehabilitate war veterans.
From there, they decided they would raise money to adopt Louie and also to aid research at the center. Their first fundraiser was during a community art event in Lutcher last year, where the children raised about $200. They also began creating a traveling art mural with the help of funding from the River Region Arts and Humanities Council and visiting artist Ghada Henagan to raise awareness of environmental hazards to dolphins. The mural is made from hand-fired ceramic tiles, and each section is being painted by a pair of the students. Bolding expects them to complete the mural by the end of the month. Touring is expected to begin by the second week of April.
“We feel honored because we raised money, and we adopted a dolphin from the DRC in Florida. It’s like one newspaper article takes us from regular class to all of this,” said 10-year-old Zachary Grubbs.    “I feel concerned about all the dolphins. And that’s really the reason all of us are doing this,” said Adrian Sandoval.  
The childrens’ efforts also inspired fifth-grade students at the school who decided to take up the project as well.
“We heard that they were raising money for a dolphin, and we found out about another dolphin that they were interested in, Jax. That’s the one that we’re trying to adopt,” said fifth-grader Jaiden Pearley.  Jax the dolphin lost his dorsal fin in a shark attack. “We haven’t done much yet, but we plan on doing more,” said Trystan Tregre.
Together, the fourth- and fifth-grade students have raised approximately $600. The fourth grade students successfully adopted Louie the Dolphin.
Both teachers and students hope to raise even more money when they begin traveling with the mural. The students will choose local and regional venues to host the mural as they talk to the public, hand out fliers and raise money for dolphin research. Eventually, they will give the mural to the DRC. The students are also in the process of planning a trip to the center to see the dolphins, Louie and Jax. Bolding and science education teacher Julmarria Jackson said it a challenge to work with such intelligent students but hopes that the they will take what they’ve learned with this fundraising effort and apply it to real life in their futures. “It’s overwhelming at times, but it’s a very unique situation. Because they’re so intelligent, and they have such great potential, we have the opportunity to foster that and help them find ways that they can be productive,” said Jackson. “I’m very impressed with them with their determination to make a difference. I hope that that translates into life skills that they’ll take forward.” “The thing I love about teaching the gifted is that they keep me challenged and on my toes. I can go to pretty big concepts, and they can get there quickly. But they might not stay there very long,” said Bolding. The fourth-grade children will hold a fundraising night to fund their trip to Florida to visit the dolphins on April 8 at Sicily’s Italian Buffet in LaPlace. The students will receive a portion of the total sales generated from lunch and dinnertime meals during that day. Additionally, citizens and/or companies who are interested in contributing have the option to sponsor a tile on the mural for $20. Donations are also readily accepted. Contact the St. James Science and Math Academy for more information.