A different kind of education
Nearly 500 Abaco school children learned about the importance of conservation and preventing marine debris during a week of distance learning provided by Project B.E.A.C.H. (Bahamas Education Association for Cetacean Health), the non-profit affiliate of Blue Lagoon Island.
Te-Shalla Clarke, education supervisor, and Destaney Cox, education coordinator, hosted marine assembly programs at Agape Christian School, Cooper’s Town Primary, Forest Heights Academy, Long Bay Primary, Man-O-War All-Age and Treasure Cay Primary schools.
Each year, more than 6,000 students from New Providence benefit from the many marine education field trips and outreach programs offered by Blue Lagoon Island through the Education Department. To ensure that Family Island students are not left out, the team visits one or two islands each year.
Throughout the week, younger students learned about conservation, marine debris and how taking care of the environment helps them in turn take care of marine animals. Educators captured the students’ attention using a combination of posters, puppets, hands-on materials and specially designed marine debris activities.
The team left follow-up art projects and games, puzzles and coloring page activity kits with all of the teachers to ensure the learning continues beyond the assembly visits. Educators were also provided full resource DVDs containing reference materials for ongoing education.
For the older students, the Project B.E.A.C.H. team added information about the many marine career opportunities that exist.
“The students in Abaco were already quite knowledgeable about many of these topics. Lots of the teachers there are already incorporating marine education and conservation into their curriculum,” said Clarke. “It’s definitely easier when this kind of material is already included in the classrooms, because the students are starting from a place of awareness and we are just adding to it and helping to connect the dots.”
The education programs are always adapted to meet the specific needs and realities of the islands and schools being addressed.
Cox said that the type of marine debris found in Abaco and many other Family Islands is mostly washed in from ocean sources, while in the waters off New Providence marine debris tends to be mostly picnic-related trash.
“We are able to show them that even though the trash impacting their islands is not necessarily something they create, it is still their problem and something they need to be concerned about,” said Cox.
During the week, the Project B.E.A.C.H. team debuted its distance virtual learning component which is expected to open up learning opportunities for students throughout the country where technology is being installed.
“When the students see a dolphin or sea lion, they light up. Imagine us being able to provide a live ‘ask the trainer’ session where they are able to ask a trainer sitting there with one of the animals at Blue Lagoon Island a question from their classroom in Cat Island. Now we’ve got something amazing,” said Clarke.
The Abaco students were all encouraged to participate in this year’s Marine Education Poster Contest, to cultivate awareness of the importance of properly disposing of all garbage and encourage Bahamians to reduce, reuse and recycle. This year’s contest challenges kindergarten through grade 12 students to creatively depict the topic “Marine Debris – Trashing our Treasure”.
• Dolphin Encounters — Project BEACH conducts numerous educational and outreach programs. To participate in a program or learn more, contact education at 359-0278 or 363-7180 – ext. 303 or firstname.lastname@example.org.