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A Living Laboratory: Watch the Delta Grow

While the majority of Louisiana’s coast is seeing consistent and severe land loss, the Wax Lake Delta has been experiencing the exact opposite.

Watch the Delta Grow (www.watchthedeltagrow.com) is a collaborative, educational project established by the Louisiana Sea Grant College Program (LSG), the LSU College of Human Sciences and Education and the LSU Coastal Sustainability Studio to raise awareness about the rising Wax Lake Delta. Scientists study the area using a myriad of tools and technology to track, record and monitor the environmental conditions of the delta throughout the seasons. These observations provide the opportunity to better understand natural deltaic systems and in turn help inform coastal restoration efforts.

Watch the Delta Grow seeks to put this meaningful data into the hands of students in high school and middle school classrooms.

“We’re working with scientists, we’re working with designers in the Coastal Sustainability Studio and we’re working with educators, like Pam Blanchard,” Sea Grant communications coordinator Dani DiIullo explained. “That allows us to bring these different skill sets together, and make a product to educate students in Louisiana schools and the general public on exactly what’s going on down there.”

Blanchard, associate professor in LSU’s School of Education and co-director of the LSU Coastal Roots program, is instrumental in editing and reviewing Watch the Delta Grow lesson plans. “I want the science to be interesting and relevant to the students – I want students to be drawn into science, not afraid to dig deeper,” she said.

Students work in small groups to examine data from the Wax Lake Delta in the lessons being created, Blanchard said. “It’s called a ‘learning cycle’,” she added. “We’re trying to move teachers away from lecturing students. Within the learning cycle, data exploration is front and center – students aren’t reading a paragraph about what they are going to learn, they learn what they need to know from the activity itself.”

Lesson topics include storms, diversions and the delta cycle amongst others. The hope is that the website will one day be a go-to tool for middle and high school teachers interested in sharing lessons right from the Louisiana coast.

“We want students to use geology, math skills, graphing and data interpretation,” DiIullo said. “The goal is to eventually expand with lessons for elementary and upper high school grades.”

“This is some of the newest land in Louisiana, a truly unique thing. In addition to providing these lessons for teachers, I’d love for the program to get to a point where these teachers can actually see the land they are teaching about.”