Gulfport organization takes students out of the class and into nature

Updated: Oct. 5, 2019 at 6:22 PM CDT
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GULFPORT, Miss. (WLOX) - An area just around the corner in Gulfport looks like a faraway wilderness. The forested grounds bordering Turkey Creek in Gulfport is a gift from the Land Trust for the Mississippi Coastal Plain. It also makes a great classroom.

“If we have a waterway, like Turkey Creek here, there’s kind of a sphere of influence on the land next to it,” Chris Anderson told the class as it gathered along the water’s edge.

Anderson, with Auburn University’s School of Forestry and Wildlife, is focused on wetlands and all the benefits.

“I’m hoping they come away with an appreciation and a better understanding of what wetlands are and why they are important to everybody,” he said.

The benefactors are the 20-plus students from Gulfport High School. Jaedyn Bolton bravely admitted this is a whole new world for her.

“I actually didn’t know what a wetland was,” she said with a shy grin.

Others are wanting to expand on their botany basics.

“I found some slight interest in learning more in-depth about the plants and just everything about them that I could,” said Alex Ortega. “I just had some interest in them, and I’m learning more than I thought I would.”

“I don’t think a lot of people know the importance of wetlands and like why we need them," added Stephanie Botters. "So, this class teaches a lot about plants and how they are and how wetlands are important to us.”

They are here because of EEECHO - or Education, Economics, Environmental, Climate and Health Organization.

“We saw a need for our young people as well as our older people to understand the environment and what was happening,” said co-director Ruth Story. “And we can’t afford to lose the wetlands.”

You can count Lyrique McNair among those who get the message.

“I think it’s really good for the environment,” she said. “So, when you have the wetlands, I think it helps out a lot, but it’s underestimated.”

“I try to speak to all audiences from kids this high to senior citizens," Anderson said. "I think the more we as a society understand the value of wetlands and what they provide us, the more they get considered by society.”

To learn more about EEECHO and its sponsors, check out its Facebook page.

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