We Have Achieved True Floating Classroomness In Dominica
One of the rules of the boat for the day was no screaming, well that rule went right out when the dolphins were swimming all along, in front, under and behind the boat, all the students were screaming with delight and making their best dolphin squeaks and whistles!What an amazing experience it is to show children the wonders that are in their own backyard!
These past few days have been incredible, watching Grade 3-5 Dominica students, many who have never been on a boat, see their first sea turtles, birds, coral reefs and even whales and dolphins. On Thursday we set out into the Caribbean Sea with students from the St. Luke’s Primary School in Point Michel, a coastal village on the Caribbean Sea side of the island. Since February the students had been learning about plankton, ocean food webs, whales, dolphins, coral reefs and marine debris and were eager to answer our questions about these topics.
We had our first fantastic find only a mile and half from shore when we came across a mixed pod of Atlantic Pantropical Spotted Dolphins and Fraser’s Dolphins and then just beyond those three Sperm whales surfaced. It was a wonderful experience to witness these students’ first encounters with whales and dolphins, and it’s safe to say they LOVED every second of it! One of the rules of the boat for the day was no screaming, well that rule went right out when the dolphins were swimming all along, in front, under and behind the boat, all the students were screaming with delight and making their best dolphin squeaks and whistles!
As our boat trip proceeded the kids were very excited to see the coral reefs below the boat with the use of our special drop camera connected by a 700’ tether to a monitor on board, to try on scuba gear, touch live crabs and snails and get a close up look at plankton. To top of our trip, right when we were leaving the Soufriere-Scott’s Head Marine Reserve we spotted a green sea turtle basking at the surface. Just as we focused all our attention on the turtle, it took a breath, filled its lungs and dove below the surface to go find some food on the reef.
One of the things that stood out to me was that the students were actively pointing out marine debris. When we had a discussion about why marine debris was bad they knew that animals can mistake it for food and it can poison them. We also discussed where most marine debris comes from (land) and thought about solutions that they could individually do to reduce the amount of marine debris that they see. We also discussed how each individual makes a choice what to do with their garbage and how it is important to educate others about what they have learned.
Through these boat trips, it’s becoming obvious we’ve achieved a genuine Floating Classroom. What better way to discuss how whales breathe then to see them doing it and being able to discuss that with the students. The students learned a lot while being stimulated by the ever-changing background of both Dominica and the beautiful Caribbean Sea. Hopefully our follow up assessments demonstrate a change in student understanding, viewing the surrounding waters as an important natural resource in need of protection for the sake of the animals and for future generations. --KM