Local students participating in the first Coral Education Snorkel hosted by Nature Foundation St. Maarten on Sunday, November 1.
Some of the snorkelling students exploring the waters around St. Maarten.
COLE BAY--Nature Foundation St. Maarten hosted the first Coral Education Snorkel for local students funded by the Prins Bernhard Culture Fonds Caribbean Territory, facilitated by Aqua Mania Watersports, on Sunday, November 1. Students learned about corals and the threats to and importance of these animals and ecosystems. They also had a first-hand experience of seeing St. Maarten’s corals and marine life.
The free event consisted of an educational presentation about coral reefs on board the Santino and two stops for snorkelling 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’s 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 three-dimensional 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 were able to find examples of hard and soft corals, sponges, as well as various forms of 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 do not 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. The 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, such as essays, presentations, video and artwork, but must cost less than 4,000 euros to execute. The top winning idea will be implemented by the Nature Foundation in St. Maarten – if possible – with the help of the student that submitted the idea. The competition deadline is December 1, 2020. Those wishing to participate may visit website
naturefoundationsxm.org for more information.