This year’s basic training course for the Coastal Chapter of the Mississippi Master Naturalist program is one for the books.
This class met on eight days from Sept. 3 through Oct. 21 at sites all across coastal Mississippi. Some of the field trips included boat trips to Horn Island and through the Grand Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, as well as hiking trips through the Crosby Arboretum and De Soto National Forest.
Participants learned about the natural resources along the northern Gulf Coast, including topics such as geology, soils, ecology, entomology, native plants, forest ecology, wildlife management, forest management, coastal habitats, fish, human impacts on the coast, marine mammals and sea turtles, and estuarine ecology.
The most impressive aspect about this year’s class is the great educational tools they are developing for their class projects. The class of 18 broke into 8 groups to develop educational materials on a topic of their choice. On the last day of class, the groups delivered a 15-20 minute presentation on their topic followed by a discussion of how to get this knowledge out to their target audience (school groups, homeowners associations, municipalities, etc.).
The chosen topics represented a wide range of topics and will lead to the development of the following educational tools: 1) a Junior Master Naturalist Program for a local school district; 2) a turtle, terrapin and tortoise awareness commercial and children’s book, 3) a short guide to environmental and financial benefits of conservation easements, 4) an all-inclusive electronic guide to hiking trails of South Mississippi, 5) K-12 competitions to promote hazardous waste awareness, 6) a hands-on presentation on the importance and diversity of soil, 7) an educational kiosk focused on invasive plants and animals and 8) an informational pamphlet on the physiological and psychological benefits of outdoor play.
The participants will continue the development of these educational tools with hopes of publishing and implementing these items over the next couple months.