As children, we often dream of big things, with open minds and pure hearts. We want to believe that the world is good, that people are good, and anything is possible. This type of hope, optimism, enthusiasm, sympathy, and empathy is what makes children so special. Their ability to learn, change and form opinions as well as relate to people and situations on a real emotional level is why it is so important to educate them on actual situations that occur in this world that will affect them and that they should care about.
There are many individuals know why it is so important to educate the youth about climate change, rising sea levels, protection of the oceans, and creating an overall more sustainable world, but as our class was in Union Island collecting research underwater to better protect coral reefs and the ocean, we realized that many of the locals know little about the ocean and reefs that surround and support them and why they are so important. As a small island, everyone should be aware of the magnificent reefs that protect their coastlines from dangerous storms and support a great deal of biodiversity in the oceans. Without the protection from the reefs, the coastline of the island would be quickly eroded. And without the biodiversity, climate change could quickly worsen, and many would lose their jobs as fisherman, the population would go hungry, and drought would be even more of an issue than it already is. Although most Unionites are typically feet from the ocean, they do not always realize the magnitude of the situation regarding the importance of their oceans or the protection of it.
When planning our outreach and presentations for some primary school children of Union, we wanted to make sure that the children understood why we were there, and why it was important to protect our oceans, and specifically their oceans and coast lines. We had four groups of students working with children of four different grades. Difficulties proved to be apparent when working with young and excited children, but it was nothing that we were not prepared to handle! It is an exciting thing to have others in their school, especially foreigners, teaching them and interacting with them. Some of our groups chose to teach through games and others through presentations although the goal was the same for all of us: to keep them engaged, compassionate and excited. It was such a joy to experience the smiles on their faces and the excitement and understanding of why it was important to protect and respect the oceans! At then end of the day we were all just excited to spread our knowledge and compassion.
The authors of this blog are students enrolled in Tropical Marine Ecology and Conservation, field courses run in the Caribbean by the University of South Florida. During these courses, students learn scientific diving techniques over a 10-14 day period and carry out research and monitoring of coral reefs at various sites. Many of these courses are done in partnership with local environmental organizations, like the Union Island Environmental Alliance and the Soufriere Marine Management Association. In this blog, students will document their activities and how they relate to course material.