Coral Cay is widely recognised for its pioneering work in the assessment of tropical forest and coral reef ecosystems. In comparison, the environmental education and awareness programmes that run alongside biophysical data collection are less well documented.
Coral Cay recognises the importance of including all resource users of a region within an environmental education and awareness programme. Coral Cay targets a diverse range of audiences including local schoolchildren, village community leaders, resort guests, dive instructors and tourism guides. A combination of outreach visits and on site events is practised. Counterpart training is also offered as part of the Coral Cay Marine/Forest Scholarship Award Programme or through specialized workshops. Environmental education and awareness activities (EAA) are common to all Coral Cay projects.
As well as the specific EEA activities targeting particular stakeholder audiences, the presence of a Coral Cay project in a region also raises environmental awareness through a variety of approaches. A series of workshops and presentations held when Coral Cay begins a new project initiates the process by explaining the reasoning behind the presence of the NGO. This means of transferring information is also used extensively in the latter stages of a project when the recommendations for the conservation of coral reef habitats and resources are presented to local stakeholders and project partners.
A typical day involves a group of 60 children and their teachers arriving at 8 am. The day starts with an introductory lecture about CCC and the work undertaken in the region. The students are then divided into three groups of 20 and each group carries out a different activity for one hour. At the end of each activity, groups are rotated so that students have an opportunity to partake in all activities on offer.
- Learning to snorkel and identify marine organisms underwater.
- Beach walk whilst identifying coral skeletons, macroalgae and other animal remains washed onto the shore.
- Touring the interactive displays with a guide. Displays included Coral Biology and Reef Ecology, Macroalgae and Marine Plants, Marine Pollution and SCUBA.
- Trying out breathing from a regulator in a dunk tank on the shore.
- Watching a video documentary on "Reefs at Risk", based in the Philippines.
- Drawing their favourite marine organism and creating a collage depicting an underwater seascape, which they can then take back to their school for display.
- A marine life quiz in which the children have to find the correct answers (which are hidden) to a number of marine and environment related questions.
A Coral Cay-produced marine life puppet show entitled "The Adventures of Fred the Fish" which reiterates the messages introduced during the day of environmental respect and
Throughout the day the teachers are encouraged to join each group in order to supervise as well as participate in the activities, including snorkelling. At the end of the day there are a series of lectures from the CCC staff about coral reef conservation and a lecture by a guest speaker, such as a local marine warden who can speak about his role in conservation of marine resources. Finally, before departure, the group was presented with their completed "Underwater Seascape" collage to take back to school.
Negros Rainforest Conservation Project, Philippines
The Negros Rainforest Conservation Project has hosted a series of one day and weekend 'forest camps' for local students in order that they can 'experience' the Negros Forest Reserve first hand and contribute to the work of the Project under the guidance of the CCC staff and volunteers.
The Project in conjunction with Negros Forests and Ecological Foundation Inc. (NFEFI) regularly holds a programme of talks at local schools within the project watershed area, explaining the work of CCC, NFEFI and the Negros Rainforest Conservation Project.
The course focuses on introducing reef ecology and biology concepts to highlight the fragile nature of the reef systems and the need for management. Concepts are promoted through worksheet exercises, word games, drama, art, group debates, and physical exercises such as litter surveys.
The aims and objectives of the school workshops are to:
- Increase the environmental awareness of the local school children
- Incorporate general science subjects from the National Curriculum into the environmental sessions
- Provide a range of teaching methods and opportunities for the children to express themselves through different media
- Monitor the increase in the children's knowledge levels to evaluate the success of the education scheme.
Full details of the programme can be found in the Fiji Coral Reef Conservation Project: 1st Annual Report (Comley et al. 2003).
Marine Ecology Workshop for the Professional Diver - Mamanucas, Fiji
Another part of the Fiji environmental awareness programme involves teaching, marine ecology workshops designed for diving professionals working in the Mamanucas island group. The workshops consists of four intensive half-day sessions. Sessions focus on coral reef topics such reef fish, hard corals or other invertebrates and are designed to incorporate the target organisms for Reef Check surveys. A full breakdown of the training provided can be found in Comley et al. (2003). The main objectives of the 'Marine Ecology Workshop for the Professional Diver' are to:
- Provide participants with a general background in the ecology of coral reefs
- Emphasize conservation issues and ethics in a fun and practical manner
- Give participants information in a format that can be easily passed on to their students and clients
- Provide a forum for the exchange of information between CCC and the Fijian SCUBA diving community
- Teach dive instructors and divemasters the Reef Check methodology for future coral reef monitoring.
The purpose of teaching the Reef Check technique on the final day of the workshop was to give local SCUBA divers the ability to monitor the health of their local reefs and assist with the global reef health monitoring effort.