Maneuvers Much More Than Summer Camp
AgCenter’s annual series of Marsh Maneuvers camps are
much more than the usual summer camp. They’re a generous
dose of education mixed with a heaping serving of fun for
4-Hers from across the state.
an LSU AgCenter aquaculture and coastal resources expert,
said the camp is designed to teach high school students the
value of the coastal marsh areas.
the four-day camp, the participants learn about coastal ecology
and the biology of the state’s coastal areas. The camps,
which are offered several times each summer, highlight such
issues as coastal erosion and give students a chance to discuss
some of the erosion control options being proposed by the
different state and federal agencies.
Maneuvers is a coastal ecology program we do for 4-H high
school students each summer," Shirley said, adding, "We’ve
been doing it for about the past 15 years."
program was conducted at the Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge near
Grand Chenier, although earlier programs have been conducted
at other locations along the Louisiana coast.
of participants is limited each summer – to provide
youngsters with the most hands-on experiences they can have
– and the individuals who take part are chosen by 4-H
agents in the parishes slated to be involved in the camps
that summer. Many times, youngsters write essays or are interviewed
by agents who try to find those most interested in learning
about coastal ecology.
said the 4-Hers who come to Marsh Maneuvers aren’t necessarily
interested in becoming marine biologists, but despite their
variety of interests, the experiences are designed to help
them learn the importance of Louisiana’s coastal environment
while also having fun.
try to give them an experience here in the marsh that they
won’t forget," Shirley said. "For example,
the airboat ride is something that most people don’t
get to do every day.
also take a smaller boat down the canal and pull a shrimp
troll and look at some of the shrimp and different kinds of
fish that are just teaming in these waters," he said,
adding, "They get to throw cast nets and they catch brown
shrimp and white shrimp, crabs and several different kinds
also are taught such facts as each acre of marshland on the
Louisiana coast is several thousand times more productive
than the best acre of corn land in Iowa. "So just on
a productivity basis, the amount of protein and carbohydrates
is just tremendous," Shirley said.
highlight of the camp, according to Shirley, is a night hike
on one of the roads through the marsh – where participants
get to "shine" some alligators and listen to the
16 different parishes are represented by approximately four
students each during the four-week camping period every summer.
Because of the limited number who can participate, parishes
eligible to participate rotate on an annual basis.
try to rotate so each parish will send four students every
four years," Shirley said, explaining that means earning
a spot in the camp can be quite competitive and is an honor
for many students.
what they learn, Shirley said the students get a well-rounded
knowledge of both the biology of the coastal ecosystem and
some of the social implications of these resources.
is where half of Louisiana lives – south of I-10,"
the LSU AgCenter agent said, adding, "All of these people
in some way are touched by the resources here on the coast.
Thousands of people work offshore in the oil and gas industry,
and other people work onshore in support of that industry."
also serves a vast array of other functions from protecting
inland areas against storms to the coastal marshes’
role in food production.
of the camp, Shirley stresses that coastal erosion is not
just a Louisiana problem, but also is a national problem.
40 percent of the natural gas that’s used in the United
States comes through Louisiana via a pipeline somewhere across
the Louisiana coast," he said. "So coastal erosion
affects everybody in the nation."
just one of the reasons Louisiana’s congressional delegation
in Washington is trying to drum up support for saving Louisiana’s
coast, according to Shirley, who said there is a debate on
whether we can save what’s left of the coastal environment
or whether we can try not to lose as much of it quite as fast.
these students about the coastal situation makes them ambassadors
for the coast," Shirley said. "When they get back
home, they give presentations to their 4-H clubs and they
use this information for speeches in classes. Some even go
back to their police juries or the Rotary clubs in their community
and give presentations there."
there are only about 64 4-Hers at camp each summer, the effect
multiplies once these students get back home and share their
experience with their family and friends, people at school
and people in their communities.
it stresses the fact that even though you live in North Louisiana,
you’re still affected by coastal issues," Shirley
said. "Whether it’s seafood, oil and gas, or the
storm threat, we’re all affected."
said that while the knowledge they gain covers a broad range,
the students are probably more excited about getting a closeup
look at alligators than any other activity. He said this is
good, because the alligator is so important to the coast.
alligator resource here in Louisiana is maintained much like
a tree farmer in North Louisiana manages trees," he explained.
"The tree farmer harvests timber one year and then he
replants on a cycle. With alligators, we harvest a certain
number of alligators each year."
said the hide is where most of the value lies, but the meat
is also quite valuable. "It has the consistency of pork
chop, but has the mild flavor like chicken, so it’s
the other, other white meat," he said.
Jackson, an 11th grader from West Ouachita High School said
this is a great camp, and she would recommend it to anyone
over 8th grade.
been fishing and crabbing and learning about different animals
on the coast," she said of her experience, adding that
notes she and other participants were taking after their daily
activities will be useful when they return home.
we finish a project we write in our journals what we did and
what we learned," she said. "We’ve learned
a lot about coastal erosion. For example, we saw where they
put down sticks last year, and where they were stationed is
now taken over by water."
information about Marsh Maneuvers or other LSU AgCenter 4-H
youth development programs, contact your parish LSU AgCenter
office or visit http://www.lsuagcenter.com.