St. Tammany Parish is the perfect place for student groups to stay, with its affordable accommodations and wonderful amenities in a safe community. The city of Mandeville was voted the No. 1 place in Louisiana to raise a family by Bloomberg Businessweek.com.
Louisiana’s Northshore has so much to teach, you’ll want to plan on several days for your field trip if possible. From Ecotourism to Voluntourism, every experience will be a lasting one your students will remember for years to come.
Outdoor classrooms abound, with 80,000 acres of designated wildlife preserves located in Louisiana’s Northshore. The biodiversity of pristine habitats like the Honey Island Swamp and Big Branch Marsh give students an up-close experience with native flora and fauna, including bald eagles, the American alligators, great blue herons, raccoons, wild pigs and more.
Group ecotours of the Honey Island Swamp by boat can be arranged through several St. Tammany Parish outfitters, such as Cajun Encounters — who also offer bus tours of New Orleans — Dr. Wagner’s Honey Island Swamp Tours, Pearl River Eco-Tours, and Middle of Nowhere Eco Tours. Experienced guides will educate your student group about the swamp’s fragile ecosystem, and also offer exciting encounters with the wildlife.
Fontainbleau State Park is located on the ruins of a sugar mill built in 1829 by Bernard de Marigny de Mandeville, the founder of the city of Mandeville. Now a 2,800 acre park located on the shore of the Lake Pontchartrain estuary, Fontainbleau offers interpretive and educational programs that explore Louisiana flora and fauna ecology, habitats, observation skills, food webs, animal behavior, adaptation, plant and animal classification, and biodiversity. Nature walks through the hiking trails are popular, as well as the Skulls and Bones program, which explores the morphology of animal bones and teeth. Or, students can see a primitive wood-working demonstration and see how our ancestors built tools integral to daily life.
Big Branch Marsh National Wildlife Refuge encompasses almost 19,000 acres of pine forests, woodlands, and marsh. Big Branch is part of America’s Wetlands Birding trail and offers several educational programs in addition to its self-guided tours of the visitor center and gardens. The Lemieux Road Environmental Education site is the location of the outdoor program, “Refugeology.” This program offers students a hands-on opportunity to learn about principles of refuge management and life science.
In addition to this on-refuge program, Big Branch Marsh offers a host of classroom programs through the Visitor Center headquarters. These programs include the subjects of wetlands, ecology, animal adaptation, endangered species and more. Two of its most popular programs are entitled “Endangered Species,” and “Creature Features.”
Students learn through touch at the hands-on Global Wildlife Center, a 900-acre, free-roaming wildlife preserve home to exotic and endangered animals from all over the world. Guided group tours can accommodate over a hundred students on covered wagon safaris, where students can get up close and personal with animals such as giraffes, zebras, eland, camels, kangaroos and more. Safari guides educate the students as to the biology, characteristics, and natural habitat of the animals, and can reach out and feed and touch them when they approach the wagons to be fed. Free lesson plans, the E.L.A.N.D Project, available for download on the Global Wildlife Center website for before, during and after field trip activities.
Insta-Gator Ranch and Hatchery, home to nearly 2,000 alligators, is open year round. Tours of Insta-gator are an educational adventure offering the opportunity to learn all about the American alligator, and a once in a lifetime opportunity to “touch ‘em, hold ‘em, feed ‘em, catch ‘em and even hatch ‘em.” Students learn that Louisiana alligator ranchers, following the Wildlife and Fisheries guidelines, have hatched and returned over one million alligators to the marshes of Louisiana, resulting in the fastest population increase of any wild animal through the intervention of man.
Unique educational culinary experiences can be found on Louisiana’s Northshore. Culinary Kids is a teaching kitchen that offers a larger-than-life experience that reflects current educational benchmarks and applies classroom learning to everyday life. Staff use humor and zany experiments to connect the science and art of cooking, making a memorable trip that inspires students to bring their skills home for quality family time in the kitchen.
Along with cooking and eating, each program includes math, science, literacy, social skills, food safety, etiquette, history, language arts and more. From measurement calculations, life-cycle flow maps of yeast, and homophones hidden throughout the recipe presentation, programs also include soda bottle geyser reactions, solid-to-liquid cornstarch experiments and density tests with oil, water, salt and eggs! Culinary Kids offers specialized advanced classes for junior high language clubs, etc.