Dominica Partners Foster a Generation for Caribbean Marine Life

Fifth-grade students in Dominica have had a unique opportunity to study marine wildlife and the ocean as an integrated part of their school curriculum, thanks to a joint project with IFAW, the Dominican government, and CaribWhale (a trade group of Caribbean whale-watch operators). This custom-designed educational program, called Floating Classrooms, incorporates both books and hands-on learning.

Floating Classrooms

The mission of Floating Classrooms, first launched in Dominica more than a decade ago, is to instill in the island nation’s youth an appreciation for marine life in the Caribbean. The program is designed to inspire the next generation to conserve marine wildlife and habitats.

Dominica’s primary school curriculum inspires students not only to protect whales and their ocean habitat but also to consider careers in science and ecotourism.

Students take the initiative

The in-class part of Floating Classrooms has study units on marine animals found off Dominica’s shores such as sea turtles, whales and dolphins; ocean habitats; marine interdependence; and the effect that human activity can have on them.

Children are taught in geography class there are seven oceans, intersected by lines on a map. For migrating sea turtles and great whales there’s only one ocean. If we are to protect our fisheries, preserve our coral reefs, and responsibly grow a successful ecotourism industry, we must recognize that each of us—young and old alike—has an important role to play.

Each fifth-grade classroom also develops and implements its own community-service initiative. For example, La Plaine’s Floating Classroom students in 2010 led a community clean-up, collecting 20 garbage bags of marine debris and litter found between their school and the beach. Also, the Floating Classrooms program culminates with a research excursion aboard a CaribWhale whale-watching vessel, which brings to life what they’ve learned.

The Floating Classroom Project has already demonstrated a tangible connection between education and conservation. During the year prior to the program pilot, villagers poached 27 leatherback sea turtles. The year after the Floating Classroom session, only one turtle was killed when it came ashore to nest. Kids are telling parents and friends not to eat sea turtles and already have organized several efforts to demonstrate that turtle poaching is not tolerated in their village and shouldn’t be tolerated anywhere. In a country where protein is an increasingly rare commodity, it’s amazing to see this kind of dedication to marine life.

Resources

Whales, divers and the economy of Dominica all benefit

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