Floating Classroom: Teachers get in on the act

Teachers on the pier with a whale size reel.“I think we will have to take one this down to the pier!”, shouted the teacher from Grand Fond Primary school.

In her hands was one end of string, the end of 80 feet of string to be exact, and she was uncoiling it as her partner, another teacher participating in the Floating Classroom teacher training, held the other end. 

The two women were using a size reel, in this case one the length of a blue whale, as part of an activity demonstrating the length of various whales.

They did end up on the pier, and were amazed at the great length of the largest whale and animal on the planet. Other teacher groups had size reels for species such as humpback and sperm whales.

Everyone was scattered outside the venue during our training workshop, with lots of discussion about how large the whales were. One commented she could line up her whole class in that distance, and there is a math lesson related to just that in the handbook! 

Considering most of us will never be face-to-face with these huge marine mammals in the wild, it is hard to comprehend their enormity. It may seem like a simple exercise, but having a better understanding of the size of these creatures, the fact they eat vast amounts of the smallest food items in the ocean, in addition to their fascinating biology, we can teach the next generation to care and how best to conserve them.

As Jacques Cousteau said, “We can’t protect what we don’t yet understand.”  That is at the heart of the Floating Classroom program and what we are striving to achieve: understanding and learning with the goal to conserve precious marine resources. Of course, engaged teachers are the key!

Teachers and Kara at the teacher training.This activity was just one of many during the 2011-2012 Floating Classroom teacher training event in Dominica. This is our third year, and our program has grown to nine schools so far. 

Training and educating the teachers on marine life and conservation is an important part of the program, and with that knowledge they can bring the ocean into their classroom for their students.

After an introduction of the International Fund for Animal Welfare and our important work around the globe, we dove right into ocean literacy principals and our focus topics of coral reefs, whales, sea turtles and marine debris.

Referencing lessons found in the handbook, the teachers participated in several activities in addition to the whale size reel that they will do in the classroom with their students. 

After lunch, we took them to the pier and deployed the splash-cam that is used on the science at sea portion of Floating Classrooms. With this camera, teachers were able to view the marine life below the surface of the water, connecting them to the diversity that is right off the dock in the Caribbean Sea. 

Kara and Amanda preparing educational resource materials for the teachers.We were given the opportunity to have a real life lesson in marine debris during this activity, as a storm during the night had reduced visibility and items were in the water as a result of run-off from the excessive rains.

What better example of why it is important to keep the land and beaches clean to keep the ocean clean? Each teacher was given a IFAW Floating Classroom reusable bag with the handbook and laminated activity materials to make implementing the lessons as easy as possible for them.

The teachers were engaged, had creative questions and expressed that their students would be excited to participate and learn about marine life.  Many approached me after the workshop and said they had already planned several of the lessons for their students. Enthusiastic teachers will be effective is exciting their students in learning about marine life, and this year’s group is ready to go. 

My colleague Kara and I agreed, it was one of our best training sessions ever! We are very excited to meet the students in January, and see how the teachers are taking the lead in the implementing the program to their classes.

-- AM

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Brian Sharp, Emergency Relief Officer, Stranding Coordinator
Manager, Marine Mammal Rescue and Research
Dr. Maria (Masha) N. Vorontsova, Senior Advisor to the IFAW Marine Conservation
Senior Advisor to the IFAW Marine Conservation Program
Matt Collis, Director, International Policy
Director, International Policy
Patrick Ramage, Program Director, Whales
Program Director, Marine Conservation