News Release

Professors awarded ULS service-learning grants to 'go green' and 'grow green'

Contact: Christina Chapple


     HAMMOND – Southeastern Louisiana University education and communication faculty have been awarded $16,378 for service-learning projects with two different “green” themes.

     The Southeastern grants were funded by the University of Louisiana System, which awarded more than $130,000 to its eight universities in December.  

     Colleen Klein-Ezell and Camille Yates of the Department of Teaching and Learning received $12,978 – the second highest award – for “Cooking Up a Storm,” a project that will partner the professors, their students and community volunteers with Hammond’s Woodland Park Early Learning Center. Cooking Up a Storm’s goal is to promote healthy eating habits by creating a school vegetable/herb garden and a cookbook of recipes for the garden’s produce.

     Amber Narro of the Communication Department received $3,400 for “Green Education is Key: Understanding the Simple and Economically Friendly Avenues to be Environmentally Responsible.”

     Graduate students in her “Communication Campaigns” course will develop an educational program for junior high students, stage a campus Earth Day celebration, and work with area cities to provide information about “going green.”

     Klein-Ezell said “Cooking Up a Storm” will give Woodland Park’s more than 500 pre-kindergarten and kindergarten students a fun, hands-on way to learn the importance of lifelong healthy eating choices. Since Woodland Park is an inclusive school, housing classes for students with autism, the project’s activities are being carefully planned to include everyone, she said.

     The project also has a tie-in with hurricane preparation, because, Klein-Ezell pointed out, eating right is often forgotten when families rush to buy supplies before a storm or cope afterward with preparing meals without power.

     “When a hurricane is approaching, people tend to stock up on chips and snack foods rather than fruits and vegetables,” she said. “Eating foods high in sugar, fat, and sodium under disaster conditions can lead to mood swings, high blood sugar levels, and high blood pressure, even for young children. We want children to make healthier food choices when preparing for a hurricane as well as in their normal, daily routines.

     Klein-Ezell said the tasks of designing and planting a garden and producing a cookbook has all the ingredients to involve a variety of Southeastern students and campus organizations in fields such as education, horticulture, and nutrition.

     “Student volunteers from the horticulture program will be essential in deciding things such as what vegetables to plant at which time, the type of soil and amount of water needed,” she said. “They will also be involved in implementing the garden design and evaluating the progress of the program.” Family and consumer sciences students will devise nutritional ideas, lessons and other materials for classroom teachers, students and their families, while education students will create ways to make the project inclusive for all of the children.

     The project will be hands-on for Woodland Park’s students, who will take an active role in deciding what to plant, coming up with recipes, and illustrating the cookbook, Klein-Ezell said. The garden will also provide the youngsters with fun learning opportunities in areas such as science, social studies, mathematics, and language arts.

     To sustain the project and raise funds for Woodland Park, she said the cookbook, as well as a variety of arts and craft projects – for example, bird houses made from gourds grown in the garden -- will be sold.

     Cooking Up a Storm will also tap the expertise of community volunteers such as master gardeners, farmers and cooperative extension service agents and the generosity of corporate partners for supplies and funding.

     Klein-Ezell said community and corporate volunteers interested in participating are welcome to contact her at 985-549-5279 or

     Narro said “Green Education is Key” will expand on a communication campaign developed by graduate students last year to educate college students about simple steps to “go green.”

     “I got really involved last semester after my students taught me,” Narro said. In addition to personally educating herself on topics such as solar energy, she spoke with the mayors of Hammond and Ponchatoula about extending the program to the community.

     Like Cooking Up a Storm, the project has a hurricane preparation/recovery connection. A key goal is to put together an “earth-friendly hurricane aftermath survival guide” targeting the community, campus and junior high school-aged children, Narro said. Students will also create lessons for junior high school-aged children, and host an Earth Day celebration to encourage college students to go green.

     “Students will not only share information, but will benefit from it as well,” Narro said. “They will use this information in their own building and buying endeavors, as well as be challenged to create opportunities for others to learn from their project.”

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