National Fish and Wildlife Foundation

The Natural Classroom Project

Bringing scientific partners, volunteer organizations, and middle and high school students together to increase environmental awareness


The Challenge

Bayou Gross Tete-Grand Bayou is impaired for both fish and wildlife propagation – due to problems with amounts of dissolved oxygen, nitrate/nitrite, total phosphorus and primary contact due to fecal coliform. Iberville Parish's Math, Science and Arts Academy-West Starship Program sits along this bayou and had an interest in getting students involved in hands-on work that could integrate the school’s focus on STEM education. 

The Approach

Through funding from National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the Institute collaborated with the Iberville Parish's Math, Science and Arts Academy-West Starship Program to work with teachers and administration to integrate a “natural classroom” into the curriculum. The primary goal of the natural classroom is to use the nearby bayou and swamp for real-world experience in applying science to an environmental challenge. The project includes training in how to take water quality samples, a cypress reforestation of an adjacent swamp, bayou shoreline plantings, and monitoring of restoration progress. In addition, students were challenged with designing and building a hydroponics system to allow the school to start growing their own wetland plants for future restoration efforts. In April 2017, Institute team members, volunteers with Forum 35 and coastal organizations as well as community members and parents planted 205 bald cypress trees, 120 live oaks, 15 American beautyberry, and 10 yaupon holly in the wetland area behind the school and the Bayou Gross Tete in front of the school. Collaboration with the school’s teachers and administration continues as the Institute works with the staff to integrate water and soil monitoring into the curriculum throughout the school year.