As Carnival Ramps Up, So Does the Dominican Floating Classroom

The breezes are picking up as the sun sets over the Atlantic just off the dock where I type. On Day three here in Dominica, a spot of Caribbean paradise lined by coral reefs and marine wonders, the locals are gearing up for carnival, which officially launches this weekend.

Dominican children participating in the Floating Classroom program.

The breezes are picking up as the sun sets over the Atlantic just off the dock where I type. On Day three here in Dominica, a spot of Caribbean paradise lined by coral reefs and marine wonders, the locals are gearing up for carnival, which officially launches this weekend. Carnival is a month-long celebration of Dominicans' African roots, unique culture and heritage.

Meanwhile, what we at the International Fund for Animal Welfare are preparing to celebrate has to do with Dominica's underwater treasures and the next generation of ocean stewards. This week, we will invite Dominica's ministers of education and youth to join us in launching Floating Classrooms 2011, a marine-life curriculum tailored for public school fifth graders here. The program will continue in two elementary schools, which are in coastal villages of fewer than 1,500, and will expand to several more schools.

What thrills me is having the opportunity to work in tandem with this country's public officials and educators to bring to life -- and continue fine-tuning -- this experiential learning program. Not only is it rewarding to see how Floating Classrooms opens fifth-graders' eyes to the magic world of marine mammals that is liteally within their reach. But it also lays a foundation for what we hope is a lifelong, active appreciation of marine animals for decades to come.

To think that as I type tonight, there are roughly 150 nine- and ten-year-old children who are about to embark on a journey that, for some, could change their lives. From learning about marine mammal biology to gaining an understanding of how human activities affect living things in the sea -- Floating Classrooms makes a real-world impact on these young students.

So, while the rest of Dominica is dancing to Calypso's rhythms, I'll be joining some of the island's educators to celebrate our planet's marine life.

--JL

For more information on the International Fund for Animal Welfare efforts to help educate children about animal habitats around the world, visit http://www.ifaw.org/education

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