One of the main pillars of Marine Conservation Philippines is education. Although we have grand plans and want to organize frequent lessons in marine biology topics for all schools in the area, we have to start small. Educating primary schools is even a bigger challenge, because in most schools the main language is Visayan. That changes when students go to secondary school and have English as their main language. Eventually we want to develop a program with different modules, provide teacher training and teach interest groups in the arboretum we live in as well. As everybody knows who has worked in the Philippines; you can have many ideas but implementation can be a drawn out process.
The most successful initiative we have employed so far is the Environmental Club of the Zamboanguita Science High School. This is a group of 13 to 16 year old students who are interested in the environment. We meet one Saturday a month and organize a varying program of excursions and lectures. The students are very motivated and easy to get enthusiastic. How many students can you get excited and motivated to show up at school on a Saturday at eight in the morning in your country? Very few I guess. Last school year we had between 20-40 students each meeting. This school year we started with 84!
In the first meeting we had a brainstorm and talk about the activities we did last year and things we would like to do the coming period. Snorkeling and mangrove replanting turned out to be really successful last year, so we’ll do that again. New activities include a long hike through nature (the students’ idea, not ours), camping at the arboretum and learning more about whales and the complexity of the reef ecosystem.
We started with a topic that the teachers were most concerned about: plastic pollution. The volunteers thought out an interesting program that also included the logistical difficulty of having 84 students being there at the same time. With an activity carousel the problem was solved. A lecture about the dangers of plastic in the ocean (using somme still pictures from the horrible video below of a turtle with a straw in its nose) and plastic accumulation at the plastic gyre in the middle of nowhere, designing a poster in which you warn people what happens if you don’t get rid of your plastic, a beach clean-up and an art project in which part of the garbage was used in the artwork or for the higher grades making a bin out of plastic bottles. After a complete morning of hard work the results were very nice to look at. The winners were awarded with a reusable shopping bag.
In the coming year we will have excursions in which we replant mangrove, snorkel and look at the different creatures living under water, get a tour through the arboretum and learn more about the plants and trees that are growing there and do more beach clean-ups. The students will learn more about coastal ecosystems, including the mangroves and the seagrass, reef ecology and sea mammals and we will end the year with an MCP summer camp (actually spring camp, the school year end in March). We are looking forward to a fun year with lots of activities!