Friday, April 19, 2024

Coral Reef Ed-venture schools San Pedro’s kids on conservation


The Hol Chan Coral Reef Ed-Ventures, a children’s educational summer program held in collaboration with Smiths College from Massachusetts, USA and the Hol Chan Marine Reserve held gradation for its 13th year on the island on Thursday July 12th at the Lion’s Den. The program teaches children about reef ecology and conservation.  The program was started some 13 years ago by professors of Smiths College working along with Miguel Alamilla of Hol Chan in an effort to give back to the community in which they had been conducting much research. The camp has grown immensely from an enrollment of about two students in its first year to some 125 registered students this year.

Each year, six students from Smith College visit the island for a six weeks stay to conduct the program and this year was no different. The program serves as a summer internship for the participating college students. Prior to arriving on the island, the students have a week of preparation and one of which is used for research on the reef along with their professors. As part of their research, the students get to enjoy our barrier reef eco-system through scuba diving as they research the various fish species and their occurrence.

The summer program is divided into two parts. The youth camp, for kids ages 9 – 12 or 13 and the advanced camp for students 12 through 17. The venue for the camp was at the San Pedro RC School. In speaking of the program and graduation, Alyssa Sonic, student of Smith’s College stated, “On any given camp day we have about 80 – 90 kids. To recruit participants, we go to all the schools while they’re still in session, before their exams start. We do skits and hand out flyers to them and we go to the high school as well to recruit for our dance camp which is for ages 12 – 17. We also had a couple movie nights before the camp started to get people interested. The graduation is being held for both youth and advanced camp, during which we would like to honor all the students who went through our program and have become Coral Reef Experts.”

Participating school-age students also got a chance to experience Hol Chan Marine Reserve onboard the Glass Bottom Boat. This was made possible through kind donations from various businesses on the island. Activities during the graduation included skits, songs and dances that represent all the knowledge that the kids gained during the summer camp. The students received ‘expert’ name cards saying that they are Coral Reef Experts.

Alyssa is very happy with the success of the program, “We find it to be very successful. We find that kids come back every year and it seems like they really know a lot about the coral reef. And we’re all about working with the community to make sure the students have something fun to do in the summer and it’s all free.”  The graduation ceremony also included treats and cupcakes for the kids. In ending, Alyssa stated, “We love working with the kids here in San Pedro. They have been a blessing and we love spending time with them.”

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