Man teaches passion for service learning

Posted March 21, 2010 8:54 a.m. EDT
Updated March 21, 2010 9:44 a.m. EDT

Project Education: Edutopia, a partnership between WRAL-TV and the George Lucas Educational Foundation, profiles a Louisiana teacher whose students imbibe a passion for service learning.

When Barry Guillot speaks, his students listen.

It could be his imposing size or his background as a Bourbon Street bouncer and Army sergeant.

Or perhaps students have come to believe in his campaign to transform education through service learning.

At Hurst Middle School in Destrehan, La., Guillot teaches seventh graders about the environment by showing them how to preserve their local wetlands as part of Louisiana State University's Coastal Roots project.

"Coastal Roots is to help the kids appreciate their wetlands and give them a feeling of ownership by doing something to help stop the wetland loss," Guillot said.

His students plant trees and monitor water quality. They teach preschoolers about their lessons in the wonders of and threats to their local ecosystem. For example, they demonstrated how to touch an Australian Bearded Dragon, which is native to Louisiana.

"This has probably been my favorite class in my school so far, because it's the one that's been the most interactive and most interesting to me," a seventh-grader named Kurt said.

Empowering students like that is the most rewarding part of his job, Guillot said.

He read from an essay in which a student wrote, "If plants and animals could talk, I think they would say we're one of their heroes, because that's the way I feel when we do our work in the wetlands."

"It just hits you as a teacher," Guillot said. "Something that I designed made this kid feel like a hero. Man, that is just so cool."