Hancock County

What hidden Hancock County gem inspired the work of these 60 Coast kids?

A “hidden watershed in Bay St. Louis” is getting a lot of exposure thanks to a partnership between Mississippi State University’s Gulf Coast Community Design Studio and the Hancock County Boys & Girls Club. The project was a summer-long STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) education program.

The Magnolia Bayou Watershed in Bay St. Louis was the subject of a multimedia art exhibition that included the activation of a storefront at 122 Blaize Ave. in the Depot District. Some of the participants in the educational program drew sketches of wildlife on the watershed and built a 3D model of the ecosystem. The exhibit opened to the public Friday.

The exhibit also featured a 5-minute documentary, “Magnolia Bayou: Bay St. Louis’ Hidden Watershed,” which documents what the students learned about the watershed.

It was written and directed by Steve Barney of the Bay St. Louis Creative Arts Center . It contains video footage of Magnolia Bayou as well as still photography of the watershed.

“We had 60 about kids ranging in age from 9 to 14, and we were able to work with them several times, and we were able to get really in depth, especially with the artwork,” Blarney said. “The activities started at the beginning of the summer and around the last week in July, we started working with the kids intensively on the art work to culminate everything we learned this summer.”

Blarney said the project was was designed to to hit three educational targets.

“We had three objectives, which was to have an outstanding learning outcome for the kids, educate the people of Bay St. Louis about the conservation of the fragile ecosystem and the third objective was to have a model which could be used by other grant recipients across the country,” he said. “I think we hit all of our goals.”

The young filmmaker

The five minute short film, which features the music of former Bay St. Louis resident Pete Fountain, highlights the 772 acres of streams known collectively as Magnolia Bayou Watershed. It enters the Bay of St. Louis at the Bay Waveland Yacht Club. The documentary creates the hypothesis that the estuary is shrinking because of commercial development in Hancock County.

Nick Bearden, 15, of Pass Christian, said he has been involved with film making and video editing sine he was nine. Nick did the drone shots, videography and editing for the documentary.

“I’m self taught,” he said. “I learned a lot by watching and uploading Youtube videos,” Nick said. “I watched a lot of tutorials.”

He said he learned a great deal about the watershed and conservation from working on the project.

“I had never really paid much attention the Bays St. Louis watershed and economic development is impacting this area,” Nick said. “It was very much an eye opener.”

Off the couches and working outside

The art exhibit was the culmination of a summer program where its participants spent several hours outdoors studying the ecosystem, by taking water samples and monitoring the native species of the bayou.

“Every day the bayou is more and more degraded and we have to be the ones that are going to save it,” said Boys & Girls Club member Sabrina Hoyt, 15. “It was a really good leaning experience.”

Devonte Han, 15, said he saw the program as a good way to learn something new.

“I did more of the art on this project,” Devonte said. “ I learned that the bayou is not doing so well because of how people are treating it and we need to treat it better.”