Aug 18, 2013 12:36 PM by AP
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - The state's top education board has endorsed a new curriculum for K-12 teachers focusing on Louisiana's Atchafalaya National Heritage Area.
The curriculum, a project of Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne and the Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism, will allow students in the heritage area's 14 parishes to take a closer look at what's in their own backyards.
The Courier reports (http://bit.ly/16euQrA) the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education approved the curriculum Wednesday.
"When elected lieutenant governor I made it part of our department's mission to increase Louisiana's educational resources for our teachers," Dardenne said. "The Atchafalaya National Heritage Area occupies the heart of the state and we want to make sure our students understand its cultural and economic significance."
The curriculum, which is aligned with the state's new National Common Core Standards, consists of three manuals, each containing cross-curricular activities for elementary, middle and high school grades, said Cami Geisman, the department's deputy communication director.
Some of the lessons will include discussion of the Atchafalaya's river system, the significance of the state's wetlands and the development of each parish within the heritage area and its cultural significance.
The manuals are available online, but printed guides should be in teachers' hands by the spring semester, Geisman said. The office wanted to gain approval from BESE before distributing any materials.
Half-day workshops will also be scheduled for public, private and home-school teachers at various locations within the region to review the material.
The goal is to have the curriculum in teachers' lesson plans for the 2014-15 school year, Geisman said
The Atchafalaya National Heritage Area curriculum is the second K-12 curriculum to be released since Dardenne took office. Last year the department released a Bicentennial curriculum to celebrate Louisiana's 200th birthday.
Both curricula provide hands-on materials to educators and students as well as educator training to implement the programs.
"The bicentennial curriculum was so well-received," she said, adding its success helped motivate the Atchafalaya curriculum. "It's important to (Dardenne) to teach students about Louisiana. It's been his mission since day one."
The Atchafalaya heritage area includes Ascension, Assumption, Avoyelles, Concordia, East Baton Rouge, Iberia, Iberville, Lafayette, Pointe Coupee, St. Landry, St. Martin, St. Mary, Terrebonne and West Baton Rouge parishes.
Terrebonne Parish Superintendent Philip Martin said he wasn't familiar with the curriculum yet, but realizes its importance.
"The Atchafalaya is a significant and unique piece of geography," he said, "especially the western part of Terrebonne Parish."
Terrebonne Parish, along with St. Mary and Assumption parishes, is located in the Coastal Zone Region, according to the tourism department. The area, called the "heart of Louisiana fishing," is noted for its dynamic scenery and wildlife, as well as its rich cultural heritage and its ecological drama.
"Any attempt to highlight this to kids in schools is valuable," Martin said. "Often we take for granted the things in our own backyard."