Students from the Pine View Middle School Junior National Beta Club participated in a wetland restoration and activity day on Dec. 8 at Bogue Chitto State Park in Franklinton, La.

Sixty-two students, six chaperones, and their leaders, Melissa Soileau and Tammy Lewko, planted several species of wetland trees, including bald cypress, red swamp maple and sweetbay magnolia, according to Mindy McCallum, LSU AgCenter Extension associate.

“Through programs such as the LSU Ag Center Youth Wetlands Program, Bogue Chitto State Park is able to replace some of the trees destroyed by Hurricane Katrina in 2005,” said Denise McKinney, interpretive ranger at the park. “These trees play an important role in providing food, shelter and nesting sites for the wide variety of wildlife that live in and visit this park.”

Along with benefits to wildlife, trees also help to slow down and break up many storms that pass through the area. But budget and staff limitations have restricted their ability to replace them.

McCallum worked with McKinney on the wetland restoration.

“Although students in southern Louisiana are surrounded by wetlands, many have never explored them,” said McCallum. ”One goal of the Youth Wetlands Program is to get every student outside, learning about wetlands and actively participating in wetland restoration.”

After the planting, students participated in outdoor activities geared toward wetland education.

Jessica Ledet, a member of America’s Wetland Conservation Corps, helped each student build a take-home miniature greenhouse. The students also explored for animals that live in and around wetlands as they scooped organisms from the pond and hiked one of the park’s many trails.

“My students thoroughly enjoyed this field trip. It was an experience that some of them have never had. It was an incredible day of mixing learning with fun,” said Soileau.