Louisiana Outdoors Outreach Program (LOOP)
The Office of State Parks' mission for its educational programming is to remove the barriers between the classroom (teachers and students), state parks (preservation areas), historic sites, and museums. The youth of Louisiana deserve quality outdoor education programming that helps their inner resources, confidence, and abilities to thrive, now more than ever before. The students and their families returning to New Orleans schools, as a result of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, have innumerable new complexities and issues to deal with. They also have the opportunity to be participants in a reformed education system that has the potential to deliver a superior level of services. Part of this ability to deliver superior services has to do with creating partnerships with programs that complement and reinforce the school's goals.
LOOP offers an expeditionary model of learning that is multidisciplinary and can be integrated into the academic curriculum and overall goals of our partners. LOOP provides educational, recreational, and relevant outdoor programs and activities that enhance self-esteem, exercise the mind and body, and develop the many characteristics necessary for good citizenship.
One of the major components that sets LOOP apart from any other outdoor program is its ability to implement meaningful content. LOOP is designed with the idea of developing skills and a base of knowledge that will then be applied. With this in mind, a typical LOOP program takes small groups (20-30) of underserved and at-risk youth through a series of academically linked, adventure-based activities. This begins with a series of in-class workshops, followed up with excursions into outdoor environments.
In terms of content, LOOP emphasizes three major areas: (1) Environmental Education - Basic ecological concepts, regional /local concerns (wetlands preservation and other urban environmental issues); (2) Outdoor Skills - water safety, canoeing, backpacking, wilderness travel, minimum impact camping; (3) Soft Skills - teamwork, problem solving, conflict resolution, self-esteem, and perseverance.
LOOP is currently partnering with schools and community agencies in the New Orleans metropolitan area. OSP is in the planning phase of implementing the same comprehensive outdoor education program in the Greater Baton Rouge Area. The program targets inner city schools and community agencies that serve students who are considered at-risk or Title I equivalent. Title I is a federally funded program in high poverty schools that target children with low academic achievement. Additionally, there are four basic types of school groups covered in this outline; three are divided according to age/grade, and the other covering three types of special needs groups. The breakdown for these groups are as follows: (1) Elementary School - Grades 3-5, (2) Middle School - Grades 6-8, (3) High School - Grades 9-12, (4) Special Needs - Gifted and Talented, Physically Challenged, Emotionally and Behaviorally challenged.
LOOP provided outdoor programming to nearly 1,000 students during the 2006-2007 school year. Through strategic planning, LOOP has exceeded the total 2006-2007 participation numbers in only four months of programming (October 07 through February 08), and is on pace to exceed the 2,500 student participant goal set for the 2007-2008 school year. While the overall focus is to affect in a positive way the overall culture of a school or the life of each participant, the programs immediate focus is to increase the total number of students served by 36% by the end of the 2008-2009 school year. Allowing a new audience of students participating in activities that enhance self-esteem, encourage mental and physical improvement, and develop the many characteristics associated with civic mindedness.
The success of LOOP can be directly attributed to the grass roots or ground-up approach of implementation and management by the Office of State Parks. LOOP staff maintains proactive in its outreach efforts, providing more than 70% of work time to direct service with its client base. The same approach will be used by OSP to expand and implement LOOP in Baton Rouge and the surrounding areas.
Jason R. Anthony, Director, LA Office of State Parks; 225-342-8109 email@example.com