16 members of the LEAP Junior Club from Port Glaud Primary and Anse Boileau Secondary schools spent last Friday exploring Port Launay Marine National Park, through snorkeling, defying the cloudy and rainy weather that lasted throughout the day. The activity was organised by the Locally Empowered Area Protection (LEAP) project team of Rafaela Gameiro, Jack Coupland, and Lydnen Gomme as part of ocean education and awareness for the club. Its aim was to help the children appreciate the diverse and vibrant marine life that exists beneath the surface of the ocean at their doorstep.
The LEAP team led the snorkelling trip
To ensure their safety, they were divided into four groups and taken out on the LEAP dive boat to explore Port Launay's reef. Some were snorkelling for the first time.
After taking instructions on the proper usage of snorkelling gear and under careful observation from Rafa and Jack in the water, they were guided over the reef to observe corals and fish.
"Increasing water confidence is the first step towards attaining ocean knowledge. We first ensured that each student was comfortable getting into the water. Those who were unwilling to do so were given the option to stay on the boat. But as the others ventured out and came back with excitement and a sense of achievement, those left behind were encouraged to go out too," says Rafa.
The children saw corals and fish of different types. "We have been teaching them about the various ocean ecosystems at the famed marine park including corals, mangroves, and seagrass as well as the variety of life they support. They were most fascinated by corals, which aren't very common in shallow waters. They also enjoyed seeing the different types of fish, including Cornetfish, Moorish idols, Skunk anemonefish, and damselfishes," Jack explains.
They were most fascinated by corals
Among other things, the LEAP Junior club was set up to cultivate a love and respect for the ocean as part of the larger regional LEAP project, which is seeking to have the local community involved in the marine parks.
Children can benefit from ocean education and awareness and can use this knowledge to come up with creative ideas to help protect the oceans.
"The activity reinforced the idea that a hands-on experience is the most effective teacher. When you open children's minds, they come up with all sorts of solutions to the challenges we face," says Corinne Julie, LEAP's technical coordinator.
"After the activities, some of the kids proposed making art about marine life to convey its importance, while older kids asked about climate change research in the future," she says.
Children can learn about ocean conservation through a variety of activities, such as beach clean-ups, visits to marine parks, or participation in citizen science projects.
Additionally, kids can attend educational events and seminars, join local conservation action networks, volunteer at ocean-focused organisations, develop educational materials or art projects to spread awareness of ocean issues, and write letters to elected officials to advocate for ocean-related legislation.