SEVENSEAS Marine Conservation & Travel Issue 15, August 2016 - Page 73

As I quietly walk through the mangrove forest, all around me I observe an ecosystem teaming with life. I hear the shuffling of fiddler crabs as they scurry back to their holes in the ground, I smell rotten eggs (sulfuric acid), and I view the light filtering through the leaves of the mangrove trees. I think to myself, “How do I inspire students to become stewards of this serene and important mangrove ecosystem?” I think back to my most influential educational experiences and the most impactful ones were when I felt like I was making a difference. That is what I wanted to bestow on our youth, a sense of ownership and stewardship over the mangroves for years to come.

I’m here in Jamaica implementing the final installment of our Mangrove Education and Restoration Program called the Jamaica Awareness of Mangroves in Nature or J.A.M.I.N. and the students are bubbling over with excitement.

In 2014, the Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation developed a Mangrove Education and Restoration Program focused on providing an immersive, yearlong experiential education experience. After a successful pilot of the J.A.M.I.N. program, this year we implemented a program in Abaco, Bahamas named the Bahamas Awareness of Mangroves or B.A.M. We work with the University of the West Indies Discovery Bay Marine Lab in Jamaica and Friends of the Environment in the Bahamas to establish and implement these programs in secondary schools.

Each program is implemented in three installments and includes opportunities for professional development for teachers, and program evaluation and development. The core of the program takes place over eight months when students grow mangrove propagules in their classroom. This part of the program is executed using project-based learning, a teaching method, which allows students to explore real-world problems and acquire deeper knowledge over extended periods of time. Using this classroom approach, students will gain the knowledge and skills necessary to investigate the question at hand: Which type of media do mangrove propagules grow best in?

It’s now the end of the academic school year, and in the midst of the students’ busy testing schedules, they take time out from studying to graph and analyze the data that they collected and draw conclusions from it to answer the overarching question. Additionally, students will return to the mangrove restoration site to plant the mangrove propagules (a seed-like structure) that they have been growing in their classroom for the past 8 months.