The Nature Foundation St. Maarten hosted the first Coral Education Snorkel for local students funded by the ‘Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds Caribisch Gebied’ and facilitated by Aqua Mania Watersports, last Sunday November 1st. Local students learned about corals, threats to corals and the importance of these animals and ecosystems, the students had a first-hand experience to see St. Maarten corals and Marine life. The free event consisted of an educational presentation about coral reefs on board of the ‘Santino’ boat and two stops for snorkeling opportunities under the guidance of St. Maarten’s marine biologists.
“The Foundation was very excited to be able to offer this activity to local students,” said Nature Foundation Educational Outreach Officer Leslie Hickerson, “We normally spend a lot of time visiting schools to give presentations about our natural environment. Since schools have been doing online learning the Coral Education Snorkel gave us a great opportunity to have students join us for an educational presentation and a practical application with the snorkel.”
At the first stop the group was introduced to the basic facts of corals and how this ecosystem is essential to humans. Students discussed why corals are considered animals and handled a 3D printed model of a coral polyp. The group was then invited to jump in the water at Little Bay to look for corals themselves. Many members were able to find examples of hard corals, soft corals, and sponges as well as various marine life.
After heading to Mullet Bay for a second chance to get in the water the Nature Foundation gave a presentation about the threats that are currently affecting St. Maarten’s coral reefs.
“It is important to talk to local students about our island’s marine ecosystem. Many people don’t know that our corals are under stress and fighting to survive. Introducing this group to the many things that negatively impact one of our most precious resources can inspire them to make changes in their daily lives to help preserve and protect our island,” said Hickerson, “The trip was a great success with students being able to see first-hand several brain corals, soft corals, several sergeant major and damsel fish, and even an octopus.”
At the end of the trip the students were introduced to the Save St. Maarten’s Coral Reefs Competition. This competition in collaboration with the IHE Delft Institute for Water Education gives local students the chance to win cash prizes in values up to 350 Euros in exchange for submitting ideas of how to help save the coral reefs of St. Maarten.
Ideas may be submitted in any form (essays, presentations, video, artwork, etc.) but must cost less than 4000 Euros to execute. The top winning idea will be implemented by the Nature Foundation on St. Maarten with the help of the student that submitted the idea (if possible)! Competition deadline is December 1st, 2020. Those wishing to participate should visit the Nature Foundation website at: https://naturefoundationsxm.org/save-st-maartens-coral-reefs-competition/.
The Nature Foundation is hosting two more free Coral Education Snorkels, the next one will be held Saturday, November 28th 2020. Students must be 12-17 years old and live on the Dutch side of St. Maarten to attend. To register your student for this free event contact the Nature Foundation at firstname.lastname@example.org