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January 26, 2018

Louisiana is building curriculum for restoring the coast | Letter

Columnist Bob Marshall recently called attention to the need for Louisiana-specific environmental education in schools, outlining his ideal curriculum as one that would not only inform students about our coastal threat but involve them in the work being done to prevent it and train them to further address it in the future.

At the Louisiana Department of Education, we agree; that’s why we’ve started to develop one as part of the Jump Start program.

Jump Start is the state’s initiative to provide all students credentials that allow them to achieve career success. Students complete graduation pathways of courses and workplace-based experiences developed by regional teams to obtain state-approved, industry-valued credentials that qualify graduates to either continue their studies after high school or launch a career upon graduating. There are currently 45 graduation pathways, and more are under construction.

School systems in Jefferson, Plaquemines, St. Bernard and Terrebonne parishes are currently collaborating with higher education and industry partners, like Greater New Orleans Inc., YouthForce NOLA, Weeks Marine Inc., and Coast Builders Coalition members Cycle Construction, MHW Global and Fugro, to create a pathway in Environmental Protection and Sustainability.

This is a top priority in coastal communities, where nearly 2,000-square miles of landscape has disappeared into the Gulf over the past 80 years. The pathway aims to equip students with the knowledge and skills needed to address the state’s environmental challenges and build on the success of corresponding, existing pathways like maritime and skilled crafts.

The pathway will include courses in subjects like Louisiana deltaic systems, wetlands ecology and environmental management; require first-hand work experience; and culminate in a credential. Students who complete the pathway will be better positioned to assume careers in the field.

The pathway is an exciting step in the state’s effort to engage the next generation in protecting our home. Our students need access to relevant opportunities provided by high schools, colleges and employers. By offering experiences tailored to students’ interests, such a system can motivate students to succeed. By offering credentials that give graduates a leg up in the Louisiana economy of today and tomorrow, such a system can prepare more graduates for a productive adulthood.

In his column, Marshall concludes, “Our children should be … quick in understanding the state we’re leaving them.” Jump Start is one way to ensure they not only understand the issues at hand but also how to fix them.

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