Around a dozen students at The NET Charter High School are earning credit this summer by exploring the Louisiana outdoors.

The alternative high school operates on a year round schedule. However, with fewer students and more adults available in the summer, the school has more leeway for creative, diverse learning, according to Principal Elizabeth Ostberg.

“Man versus Fish,” an environmental science course being held from June 3 to July 9, has students in the field two days a week and in the classroom for the remaining three.

NET Principal Elizabeth Ostberg updates the number of fish caught by students in a summer ecology course.
Erin Krall/The Lens

“When the students come back into the classroom, they spend four hours completely focused – they’re so engaged,” Ostberg told the school’s board of directors at a meeting Tuesday.

The course is centered around the central question, “What does it take to live off the land in southern Louisiana?” Run by two teachers from The NET alongside partners at the Louisiana Outdoors Outreach Program, and the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, students spend time in City Park learning to catch and clean fish, studying the ecosystem and experimenting with invasive species.

Fishing trips to surrounding bayous and Lake Catherine in eastern New Orleans have been treats for the group.

“These are kids who typically don’t get outside a lot,” Ostberg said.

In addition to ecological studies, the school is also running a summer film course with hopes of connecting students with work in the city’s film industry.

Serving high-risk teens who are often over-aged for their grade level, the school sees attendance and enrollment fluctuate on a weekly basis due to incarcerations, drop-outs, re-enrollments after expulsions elsewhere and other issues.

The NET’s summer session also is  offering students the chance for more intensive internship opportunities, which Ostberg says is a way for students to start the rest of their lives.

“The internships give them a sense of usefulness. They’re doing real work,” Ostberg said. “There is a hole when they’re not there, and the mentorship with their supervisor provides them with another positive adult relationship.”

While boredom and frustration with classes is a common issue for administrators to deal with, students’ excitement to have their first professional experience has led to 63 NET internship placements in the 2012-13 school year. (Total school enrollment hovers on average between 140 and 150 students).

Open to any grade level, the school currently has students working with Kingsley House, LOOP, and the Louisiana Children’s Museum. Past placements have included Liberty’s Kitchen, Son of a Saint and the Ashé Cultural Arts Center.

Also at Tuesday’s meeting,  the board of directors unanimously approved the school’s $1.64 million 2013-14 operating budget.

Tuesday’s meeting ran from 6:09 p.m. to 7:11 p.m., with the following board members present: Michelle Brown, Marshall Fitz, Christopher Kaul, Kristina Kent and Anna Koehl.