This past weekend, we had an awesome kick-off to our work with this semester’s interns at our GRN training weekend. It started on Friday with an invite to our local and regional interns to participate in Tree Hugger Happy Hour. After plenty of socializing, the regional interns headed over to GRN’s headquarters to get a tasty po-boy and a thorough introduction to the organization from Cyn Sarthou, GRN’s executive director. From there, the regional interns left to crash on the couches of local interns, past and present.Bright and early the next morning, everyone came together at Tulane’s University Center for breakfast and the beginning of an intense day of training. With a mix of local intern and regional interns, there was lots of great energy from all over the Gulf. First off, Dan elaborated on the knowledge they already had by giving a presentation on the Save Our Cypress Campaign, effective campaign strategies, and the campaigns relevance to wetland restoration and environmental change. Next up, I went over the grassroots organizing tool of petitioning and what its context is within our campaign through the use of postcards. I discussed how we utilize postcards to show Wal-Mart, Lowe’s, and Home Depot that there is public support against their sale of cypress mulch. Anat put her canvassing skills to good use by helping me out with a demonstration of the postcarding rap. Once we went over the keys to successful postcarding and practiced a few times, everyone was ready to jump right in. We went out for an extremely productive hour where we surpassed our goal of 135 postcards signed by getting over 200! And this was on a sleepy Saturday morning on campus. Lorraine did an especially stellar job postcarding by collecting a grand total of 32. Kyle and Heather, regional interns from Lafayette, reflected on how much they enjoyed getting out there and talking to people. This got all the interns started on their individual goals of collecting 400 postcards over the semester.After postcarding, we relaxed for a while to eat a well-deserved lunch. As soon as lunch was done, Aaron Viles, GRN’s campaign director, stopped in to talk about the state of Louisiana’s wetlands and the Flood Washington e-action campaign that he created to bring attention to them. He illustrated how interns can also bring attention to them by organizing screenings of the movie, Washing Away: Losing Louisiana, on their campuses. His intern, Stephanie, is helping him work on sustainable fisheries. When he took off, Dan and I helped the interns brainstorm how to plan their own movie screening events. There are now three movie screening events under preparation across the Gulf in Lafayette, New Orleans, and Tampa, FL.Although postcarding is huge, Dan talked next about how to keep the public pressure on Wal-Mart, Lowe’s, and Home Depot going through direct actions. The interns contributed some really great ideas for direct action. My personal favorite was going up to the cashier with several bags of mulch in your cart, questioning them about it, and then asking to speak with the manager. As we finished up, Matt Rota, director of the Water Resources Program, came in to talk to the interns about the dead zone. Even though the interns are working primarily on the cypress campaign, it’s good to know about a variety of the issues facing the Gulf of Mexico. Mike, the intern from Tampa, was interested in how the Dead Zone information applied to red tide issues in Florida. The training day ended with an overview of the art of public speaking. Dan gave the basics for presenting a message to a large group of people and then the interns stood in turn to give their best. Everyone rocked it and Casey definitely nailed the presentation.This group of talented students left the room having gained the ability to train volunteers to postcard, plan an amazing movie screening event, talk to community and campus groups and classes, and generally organize people to get behind the Save Our Cypress Campaign. Way to go everyone!The next morning, we rallied the interns back together after a night out on the town to enjoy some of the ecosystem we had been talking about. Originally, the plan was to go on a boat tour with Professor Rob Moreau of SELU, but the weather was not on our side. A tropical storm depression was moving through and Rob was worried about having boats out on the water. Instead, we traveled west of New Orleans to the Jean Lafitte Barataria Preserve. Once there we saw tons of wildlife-tree frogs, massive spiders, and even a couple of alligators! Heather went nuts taking photographs. I’ve included a photo she took of a tree frog. Afterwards, everyone agreed it was- without a doubt- an amazing place.Now they’re all back home kicking some corporate butt to save the wetlands. Amy Medtlie is the Outreach Associate for the Gulf Restoration Network.