Loyola University New Orleans to Create Learning Laboratory at FEMA-Funded Mirabeau Water Garden

NEW ORLEANS — Loyola University New Orleans students and professors are partnering with the local schools, industry leaders and community organizations to create a new learning laboratory at Mirabeau Water Garden. Initial details were shared in a press release.

Located in New Orleans’ Gentilly neighborhood, the FEMA-funded water garden — part of the city’s resiliency plan — is an innovative showcase and stormwater management system that demonstrates how water gardens can help to reduce neighborhood flooding and subsidence. At “Loyola Academy,” Loyola students and scientists, together with industry and community professionals, will mentor local high school students and teachers, introducing them to new ways of handling water in our city.
For example, students and teachers will learn various green infrastructure technologies and how they reduce negative impacts to the environment. In order to better understand the advantages of using new technologies, especially in low-lying areas, they will also learn about the city’s history of handling water removal through a manmade pumping system. This new environmental classroom will spawn a new generation of “science ambassadors” and residents who can promote science literacy and help communities address water issues.

“Living in a coastal environment, we have historically had flooding issues that have been solved by pumping water into a canal system that feeds into Lake Pontchartrain. An unintended consequence of this method of water removal has been subsidence,” said Dr. Aimée K. Thomas, lecturer and assistant professor of biological sciences and the Director of the Environment Program at Loyola. “This will be Loyola’s first community-education initiative designed to show how we can begin to live with water instead of working against it.”

 A cross-cutting partnership of public and private stakeholders — including Loyola University, Entergy Corporation, AT&T, and Waggoner & Ball Architects — and will support the project through environmental internships, teacher training workshops, and educational activities for residents of all ages. Entergy, AT&T and the Louisiana Environmental Education Commission have provided more than $150,000 in grants.
Learning opportunities will allow the community to see how the water management system functions and benefits the area by removing flood waters from streets and homes and returning it to the landscape. Participants in the Academy will create an interactive app and curricula to be used for K-12 field trips and community educational fairs.

Led by Dr. Aimée Thomas and Dr. Bob Thomas, one of the nation’s top “Wetland Heroes,”the project has already gained support from the Congregation of St. Joseph, the Net Charter, Lusher High, New Harmony, and Anna’s Place, as well as the Gentilly Improvement Association. Interested schools can submit applications to environment@loyno.edu.

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