Building Active Stewardship in New Orleans (BASIN)

The UC's environmental literacy and stewardship program

Teach Your Children Well.

Dibert Raingarden1_small
The Urban Conservancy partnered with Dibert Community School’s third grade teachers and its Edible School Yard staff at the Phillis Wheatley campus.

Building Active Stewardship in New Orleans (BASIN) is the Urban Conservancy’s summer program that introduces school-aged children to the vocabulary, concepts, and skills required to promote the wise stewardship of our urban built environment and fully understand and participate in our growing network of green sector professionals.

Education is a critical piece of the growing green sector. Since Hurricane Katrina and subsequent catastrophic and manmade flooding, our growing understanding of subsidence, flooding, aging infrastructure, and coastal erosion compels us to redefine our relationship with water through integrated water management strategies and systems. Residents, starting as children, are going to need a level of “water literacy” to actively participate in civic life. BASIN campers will learn more about how New Orleans is learning to live with the water that surrounds (and often floods) our city, and develop into effective ambassadors, sharing their knowledge about applying the lessons of the wetlands to how we build safer, less flood-prone neighborhoods within New Orleans.

BASIN’s Creation Story

Craig Elementary students on their field trip to Bayou Cane

In September of 2013, the Urban Conservancy, with support from Mission Continues, began its pilot of a one-of-a-kind environmental literacy program with Craig Elementary School. Craig Elementary School is situated at the corner of St. Philip and Villere Streets, across the street from the back corner of Armstrong Park. While the school is fortunate to be located so close to a public park, it will also soon become one of many schools located on or near the Lafitte Greenway.

Urban Conservancy project manager Keely Hill and Mission Continues Fellow Kendric Perkins developed and incorporated weekly environmental literacy lessons into the science curriculum of one 5th grade class at Craig Elementary starting in mid-September. These lessons varied from activities that allowed observation and questioning of pollution in local water systems to presentations by professional guest speakers working in environmental science fields.

Throughout the 2014-2015 school year, with support from the Joe W. and Dorothy Dorsett Brown Foundation Service Learning program, the Urban Conservancy worked with the 3rd grade teaching team and the Edible School Yard instructors at Dibert Community School at Phillis Wheatley, adapting the curriculum to meet the educational objectives through hands-on learning, field trips, and guest speakers.

Getting Your Hands Dirty: Field Trips in Orleans Parish and Beyond

Students observe water at Armstrong Park.
Students observe water at Armstrong Park.

While the program is adaptable to the needs and ages of participating schools and students, certain elements, like field trips, are essential.

In partnership with Bayou Rebirth, the students at Craig were able to build their own on-campus pond to foster the growth of native wetlands plants for several months.

After several months of care and observation, the students visited the Bonnet Carre Spillway to replant the native California Bull Rushes, Cattails and Oyster Grass along the spillways banks. Additional field trips included a trip led by Bayou Rebirth to Armstrong Park for water quality testing and habitat observation. Students used low-cost tools that can be purchased online or at a local store. Building on previous lessons giving careful instructions on how to properly use the tools and record observations, students led their instructors to answers of the water’s pH, dissolved oxygen, nitrates and phosphates and more.

The Dibert program included trips to UNO’s Coastal Education and Research Facility (CERF) in Bayou Sauvage for a day of observation and experimentation, and trips to the Lafitte Greenway.

The Craig program concluded with a visit to Fontainebleau State Park on the north shore for a day of hiking and canoeing, led by Canoe and Trail Adventures’ Byron Ahlquist (see video above), and the Dibert program culminated in a public service learning project which included a public presentation, bench building, and tree planting project on the Lafitte Greenway.

Guest Speakers: Science is more than a Hobby

Gaylan Williams, Senior Associate with Dana Brown & Associates, talks about being a landscape architect to Dibert third graders.

Another critical component is environmental professional guest speakers. Volunteer guest speakers have included Gaylan Williams (pictured right), Clyde Carlson, local civil and environmental engineer previously employed with the Louisiana DHH/OPH Safe Drinking Water Program Ica Crawford, Executive Director of Our Garden.  Ica visited the class with various soils and seeds for a lesson on germination and the need for quality gardening in every urban community.


Moving Forward

BASIN campers canoe down Bayou St. John during BASIN 2017.
Campers canoe down Bayou St. John during BASIN 2017.

If you are an educator and are interested in learning more about bringing this program to your school, please contact us at with “BASIN” in the subject line, or call us at 504-717-6187.

Update 2

Aug 2016

BASIN 2016

This year, BASIN was free for campers; funded by a combination of sources including GiveNola Day and the Harrah’s Community Grant Program via Councilmembers Guidry, Williams, and Ramsey. BASIN took place at Sojourner Truth Neighborhood Center for 6 weeks from 3:00-5:00PM, in conjunction with a NORDC day-camp.

BASIN hosted 12 green sector speakers and 4 offsite field trips including the Lafitte Greenway, Broad St. pumping station, and the ReFresh Project. The camp maintained a 4:1 or better student to teacher ratio and provided two snacks a day. BASIN culminated in a camper-led final presentation for parents and community members and a canoe trip to Bayou Cane with Canoe & Trail Adventures.   


Update 1

May 2014

How do you get kids interested in being responsible land and water stewards? Surround them with professionals passionate about their work in environmental science and then let them get dirty. Thank you, Parasol Productions, for documenting our Building Active Stewardship in New Orleans (BASIN) program. See more photos.

The pilot BASIN program with Craig Elementary ended in March of 2014. With a final commencement including a handing of certifications and student presentations, the program went out with a bang. The Urban Conservancy plans to continue BASIN in New Orleans schools during the 2014-2015 school year. Stay tuned for developments on participating schools, program locations and more.

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