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Environmental Grants Are Silver Lining in Lingering Cloud of Hurricane Katrina

By Rhonda Miller | Published 07 May 2011 04:54pm | comments
At the site of the Magnolia Park Elementary outdoor classroom are, from left, teacher Anja Comerford; Joe Jewell, Department of Marine Resources; Principal Jeanne Lewis; and Edna Waller, Assistant Superintendent, Ocean Springs Schools.

Hurricane season begins June 1, but some schools on the Gulf Coast are still recovering from Katrina. MPB’s Rhonda Miller reports some of the damaged schools are getting money for projects that will teach students about the brighter side of Mother Nature.

Ten years before Hurricane Katrina, there was an outdoor classroom behind Magnolia Park Elementary in Ocean Springs.

Walking on what is now a piece of overgrown forest, Principal Jeanne Lewis says the 2005 hurricane destroyed an important part of learning.

"We had books for identifying types of trees and vegetation," Lewis said. "We had books for identifying types of birds and animals, any kind of wildlife they saw out here. There’s a lot of history in here."

Teacher Anja Comerford points to a tree with sticky black bark and says students today never heard about some pieces of history, like turpentine.

"The sap, they make the turpentine from the sap of the tree," Comerford said. "It’s just left from back when they were doing the turpentine industry down here, and pulling the turpentine for the shipping industry."

Community volunteers will rebuild three learning stations and and clear the trail. Teaching materials will be purchased with $5,500 awarded by the state Department of Marine Resources. The money comes from the federal Coastal Impact Assistance Program.

Magnolia Park is one of nine elementary schools in three coastal counties getting money for environmental projects. Jessica Rankin of the Department of Marine Resources reviewed the proposals.

"Several of the schools are going to do aquariums, so that kids can learn about water quality and different species of fish. One school is going to plant grasses on their property to reduce runoff," Rankin said. "One of the schools over in Gulfport is going to do a garden, where they’ll be growing plants that the kids can actually eat ."

Hurricane Katrina has been a black cloud over the Gulf Coast, but the money for the schools is a small piece of silver lining.

Images

At the site of the Magnolia Park Elementary outdoor classroom are, from left, teacher Anja Comerford; Joe Jewell, Department of Marine Resources; Principal Jeanne Lewis; and Edna Waller, Assistant Superintendent, Ocean Springs Schools.


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