Gautier students learn to care for the environment

GAUTIER, MS (WLOX) - By Patrice Clark – bio | email

GAUTIER, MS (WLOX) – BP's massive oil spill was a real eye-opener to how critical it is to care for the wildlife and wetlands. That important message was spread to 600 sixth graders in Gautier Thursday as they stepped out of the classroom and into kayaks and canoes for their first lesson.

"This is so fun; I really want to do it again," student Precious Drake said.

Wayne Taylor is one of the instructors and said the students should learn to enjoy the water that surrounds them every day.

Another hundred young people got a lesson on caring for little creatures. Bobby Smith and his classmates even got a chance to touch big eyed, baby alligators, fish and even snakes.

"It was slimy, smooth, it was real smooth, and it was fun," Smith said after touching the alligator.

By teaching kids not to be afraid of snakes and alligators and other creatures in the environment, the hope is they'll also get outside a little bit more.

"Enjoy what is in their backyards and their school yards," coastal ecologist Dr. Mark LaSalle said. "It is about connecting them to the broader world around them, and the things that could help destroy these natural resources we are trying to introduce them to."

Dr. LaSalle said BP's damaging oil spill was a wake up call for South Mississippi. He also said adults have to pay attention to the total environment and educate this next generation to do the same.

"They see now that there are some things that they can lose that they value and cherish," LaSalle said. "A lot of what these kids are learning today is to appreciate nature."

This is the ninth year the Pascagoula School District has sponsored the environmental day. The district said it picked only sixth graders to participate because it goes along with their science curriculum.

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