In the spring of 2017 the Gulf Coast Community Design Studio was awarded a NOAA-21st Century Community Learning Center Watershed STEM Education Partnership Grant though the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation. The funding opportunity allowed the Design Studio to develop and implement a summer-long watershed education program with teens and pre-teens at the Hancock County Unit of the Boys and Girls Club in Bay St. Louis that focused on an important local waterway and watershed, Magnolia Bayou. While the Bayou is mostly hidden from public view, the Magnolia Bayou Watershed is around 800 acres and includes much of downtown Bay St. Louis. This means that stormwater runoff from the larger urban area affects the water quality in Magnolia Bayou and the Bay of St. Louis.
The program, which began in June 2017, challenged students to learn about watershed dynamics and the impacts of stormwater runoff on water quality and quantity, alongside NOAA staff and other science professionals. The project went beyond STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) to STEAM, incorporating unexpected elements of art and culture that are so important to Bay St. Louis and the larger Mississippi Gulf Coast Region. In the second part of the program students interpreted the water quality data, drone imagery, video footage, and other “scientific” findings through art and engineered models that were then on display as part of a public exhibition in downtown Bay St Louis the second week in August. Student work was also used to produce a documentary short film highlighting the impact that upsurge in development is having on Bay St. Louis’ fragile riparian ecosystem.
As with most projects at the Gulf Coast Community Design Studio, the strength of this project came from an amazing collaboration of partners:
- Steve Barney, a local artist, creator of the STEAMpunk Pottery Project that integrates art into STEM, and founder of the Bay St. Louis Creative Arts Center;
- Kristy Daspit, an educator at Hancock County Middle School;
- National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Centers for Environmental Information;
- Innovative Imaging & Research (I2R), a small, women-owned research and development company based out of Stennis Space Center that specializes in remote sensing, geospatial, and optics-based products and services as well as UAV imaging and training for corporate and government clients
- Starfish Café, an experiential learning café in downtown Bay St. Louis that has been plastic-free for almost three years;
- unabridged Architecture, a local LEED-accredited professional architecture group involved in resiliency and coastal restoration;
- Smith & Lens, a local artist group and gallery that is involved in many creative downtown economic development initiatives; and
- Wild at Heart Rescue, a wildlife rehabilitation center located in Pascagoula.
To see news articles highlighting the work, visit the sites below: