Posted: December 2, 2011

Name: Kate Berge
Position: Student Affairs Manager
Program: The SFS Center for Marine Resource Studies, Turks & Caicos Islands

In early November, The School for Field Studies Center for Marine Resource Studies in the Turks and Caicos hosted over 100 South Caicos schoolchildren for “Sea Day.”

The concept of “Sea Day” arose in October, when a local science teacher approached the Center for marine resource studies staff, stating that she wanted her students to study marine organisms hands-on, not from a book. She was eager expose her students to more interactive methods to learn about the anatomy and behavior of various marine animals, but didn’t have the means to pull off the complexities of this project. The staff and students at the Center were motivated to organize a day of interactive touch tanks and various marine education stations for all local youth to enjoy and learn from, and “Sea Day” was born and November 9th!

The first order of business early in the morning of Sea Day was collecting the organisms for the interactive “touch tanks.” At 6:30 AM, about 15 eager SFS students met at the docks for a sunrise snorkel/creature collection mission. We headed to a local snorkel site, Moxy Bush, and jumped off the boat on our mission. Students found several West Indian sea eggs, sea cucumbers, queen conch, clams, cushion sea star, pencil sea urchins, damselfish, blueheaded wrasse, hermit crabs, sea biscuits, and even a shrimp.  These organisms were brought back to the Center in large buckets and placed in filtered tanks to be displayed for the children.

At around 8:30 AM, students from Marjorie Basden High, the Calvary Christian Primary School, and Iris Stubbs Primary School started pouring in! The first two stations were interactive “touch tanks.” One contained the few types of mollusks we’d found, and there was another tank of various echinoderms. Local students were also treated to a SCUBA demonstration. Center students and staff explained the equipment necessary for diving, and even descended underwater in the pool to give local youth a real sense of what it’s like to be a SCUBA diver! Students also really enjoyed an activity that helped to explain the dangers of marine debris.

Schoolchildren learned how long it takes for various types of trash to decompose naturally, and how dangerous it is for the marine animals who mistake trash for food. Another station included the activity “Who am I?” where students had to decide which marine organism was which based on a brief description. South Caicos schoolchildren really enjoyed their visit to The SFS Center for Marine Resource Studies, which was evident as they excitedly moved from station to station. Even the teachers were interested in learning more about local organisms found in the banks just around their island home. In total, we were visited by eight classrooms on the island, and students and teachers were grateful for such a hands-on learning experience, supporting the experiential learning model that SFS prides itself on.

Sea Day was a great opportunity for Center students to teach in an engaging manner to our community’s children in an effort to increase their understanding about the local marine ecosystem. These children are going to be the future fishers, government workers, and policy makers of South Caicos, so instilling a sense of love and respect for the marine environment is crucial to the future health of the island’s natural resources. Sea Day was also an opportunity for Center students to put in to practice the knowledge they’ve learned in their courses and experience on South Caicos through teaching community youth. What a successful day at The SFS Center for Marine Resource Studies!