Students are back into the swing of things here on South Caicos after the field trip to North and Middle Caicos and the mid-semester break. Case Study 2 and Directed Research have both started, so the days are academically busy. Additionally, there are different activities for them to be part of the community. We continue community outreach programs that have been implemented through the years (alumni will remember hearing “how many more minutes” on Saturday mornings as the local kids waited until the doors opened at 1:30PM). This semester the SFS Center for Marine Resource Studies (CMRS) implemented new outreach programs which have been successful thus far!

As mentioned in the “Sea Day” News from the Field update, we have partnered with the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (WDC) in Plymouth, MA. This partnership has played an important role in the Saturday outreach programming; we have had five weeks of whale activities at the “featured creature station,” which has successfully competed with the crafts and games stations. During these five weeks, the station had activities to teach the local kids (and us) about whales: how to identify individual humpback whales; humpback whale behavior patterns; baleen feeding; importance of blubber for marine mammals; and how whales communicate with each other. As the humpback whales have migrated north, the “featured creature station” now will focus on other featured marine creatures.  Last week, the station taught us about sea turtles as there was a turtle survival (homemade) board game.

Humpback Whale ID Activity

Turtle Survival Board Game

Another station that we have on Saturdays is an “environmental station,” where CMRS students and the local kids “do science.” This includes beach erosion activities, global warming (ice surprisingly holds up well to the heat here!), and effects of trash blowing into the ocean. The goal is to spread our passion for not only the marine world, but for science as well.

Beach Erosion Activity

Wind vs. Trash in Oceans Activity

We have begun a new program in order to help integrate the Center and the community: the Friendship Family Program. For this, students are partnered with a local family and spend approximately one hour per week together. Some are learning about the history of South Caicos through conversations with elderly couples while others are helping the children with their homework before a friendly volleyball game. Each partnership is unique and each provides a window into another aspect of the culture of South Caicos and its peoples. The community has commented as to the unique aspect of the program and we are all excited for it to continue.

Students are able to learn about the importance of the topics that are taught in the classroom during their time spent out of the classroom. Study abroad is a unique experience that allows students to not only study something different (or in a different format) than on their home campus, but without connecting with locals, it is incomplete.