Saturday, 28 April 2018

Taking Marine Conservation into the Classroom

Sea Champion Fiona showing the class her diving equipment

Sea Champion Fiona is an avid marine conservationist and diver and was really keen to share some important messages with the younger generation. With the buzz of Blue Planet 2 putting the topic of plastic pollution on everyone's mind she decided to take this opportunity to visit a local junior school and share the marine conservation love.  

Just as most people were gearing up for Christmas on a cold November morning, I went into Drayton Junior School to talk to two groups of children all about the polar regions and man’s impact on them. I saw this as an ideal opportunity to engage youngsters on the very current issues of marine litter and plastics and what they can do to help.

I ran through information on the Arctic and Antarctic polar regions, the similarities and differences and some of the animals that live there. I then went through some of the incredible adaptations they have acquired to enable them to survive in such harsh environments. I showed them short videos and played some sounds of icebergs creaking and cracking. I then went on to demonstrate that in such remote regions man’s impact is still evident as marine litter has been found in all areas of the globe.

I described what marine litter is, where most of it comes from and what the impacts of the litter are to our environment and wildlife, especially plastics. Most importantly I then explained to them what they can do to help reduce the problem. I then finished off with a wonderful animated video that illustrates the problem perfectly without being too hard hitting and they were transfixed.

Both groups were so well behaved and listened very intently (apart from a windy young lad in the front row of the first group and his friends with the giggles… I must admit I found it hard not to laugh too!) They answered all the questions so enthusiastically and were very knowledgeable which was brilliant and at the end I had some great questions and observations which really demonstrated that they had been listening.

After Fiona's session the teacher ran a competition to design a poster on the polar region and man's impact on them

I finished off the session by showing them my dive kit and explained how it is used in my work – to gather survey data to assess the condition of the designated sites of the marine environment and also assess man’s impact on them. Some of them volunteered to try breathing off the twin set regulators with a mask, but sadly time ran out so further students opted to come back during break time and have a go which was encouraging. However the bell went off all too quickly just like my school days and it was time to go.

All in all it was a very enjoyable experience and I really felt they had absorbed what I’d said. Fingers crossed there may be some future conservationists or marine biologists amongst them. It was a very satisfying day and if anyone is considering doing some volunteer environmental education in schools, then I would encourage it wholeheartedly. It’s a really positive experience for all involved.

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