On the 17th on March in partnership with Reef Catchments, we took out our first local school as part of Mackay Islands Schools Program. We are working together with Reef Catchments to subsidise and deliver a unique experiential education program for high school students in the greater Mackay region. This allows students to take their studies out of the classroom and develop their skills in the field. The program also aims to help develop an appreciation for the marine and island environments existing in their backyard.
Our first lucky participants for 2014 were a year 12 biology class from Sarina High School. The Project Leader Amanda Scrivenor worked with the school’s teachers to tailor the program towards the units being studied in the classroom. At the time the Sarina students were studying marine animal behaviours and reactions to external stimulus. Easily applied on the reef, they studied things such as clams, Christmas tree and fan worms, recording times the organisims opened and shut in response to different stimuli. Data was collected either while snorkelling or walking on the reef at varying tide heights. The students then took their data back to the classroom to write up their findings.
While the group was on Brampton Island they also completed a Tangaroa Blue Marine Debris assessment where they collected and recorded over 40kg of marine plastics off the beach at Dinghy Bay in just half an hour. Ingestion of these plastic is common amongst marine life and often fatal. The group put in a great effort to help protect the turtles, fish and birdlife of Dingy Bay.
Not only did the group contribute by cleaning the beach they also helped out with our long running rehabilitation of the beach scrub rainforest surrounding Western Bay. The team removed over 100kgs of weeds from a 4.3 acre area of beach scrub. The removal of invasive ground cover allows for the growth of native species.
All in all it was a hugely successful week and we are all looking forward to the next local school trip later in the year.
Kerensa McCallie, Senior Project Officer at Reef Catchments had this to say about her first experience of the program:
“Giving young men and women the opportunity to be involved in conservation is perhaps the greatest legacy of this program. Students who actively engage in conservation work and have experienced on-ground outcomes are far more likely to carry that conservation ethic with them into the future. These students are empowered with knowledge and the ability to see that they can affect change in the real world. Further, those students are more likely to spread the conservation message within their schools, peer groups, at home and on social media meaning the small group who were involved will have achieved much more far-reaching influence.
For me, the greatest outcome of the trip was the students making an active decision to present on what they had learned back to the school during assembly. The students were aware of the import of their efforts and wished to share their knowledge and experience with others. “