As most ecologists know, observing the same location over time tells you a story about what is going on with the health of the ecosystem. We have a small ecosystem in trouble….a favorite little bay in St. Lucia where Katie (and Nina and Sam, Kievan, Karim, and Selena and sometimes even Keiwa) likes to jump off of the high rocks. The reef was so beautiful when I first saw it many years ago. It still has a diverse array of coral species, but at least half of the bay now has mostly dead coral. The fish population was equally diverse, but now very few fish call the bay home. And what happened to all the sea urchins? They are such important grazers of the reef and none were there this week. It is likely that the Christmas Eve storm that devastated St. Lucia dislodged and killed the sea urchins. The sediment from the torrential rains from Hurricane Tomas in 2010 and again on Christmas Eve have seriously damaged the corals. Green algae is growing more abundantly, likely aided by nutrient enrichment. We have been challenged to try to reverse this process. Even as we can see that the corals of the outer bay seem to be healthier than just after Tomas, others are bleached and dying
Soufriere, January 24, 2014: Caribbean SEA received funding from La Mer, an Estee Lauder company to launch its Kids 4 Coral program in 2013. The goal is to teach one hundred children in Saint Lucia how to snorkel. Approximately 60 children from Vieux-Fort, Soufriere and Marigot learned how to snorkel in 2013. Kids 4 Coral will soon be conducted in Dennery and Castries. Participation is free and equipment is provided for use during the program.
The island of Saint Lucia, our home, is surrounded by many beautiful coral reefs, yet many Saint Lucians have never witnessed these majestic sights that many tourists travel hundreds of miles to see every year. Furthermore, many of the actions that we partake in on land have a huge negative impact on this delicate ecosystem, which not only puts at risk the diverse marine life that lives there, but also directly damages the livelihoods of those involved in the tourist and fishing industries.
In order to sensitize the youth of Saint Lucia to the beauty and importance of these reef ecosystems, we are started our “Kids 4 Coral” program. Through this program, we teach students ages 8 – 12 years how to snorkel, identify many of the local marine plants and animals, and how to make simple changes in their everyday lives to protect the underwater world. We also encourage parents to attend both the classroom and the snorkel sessions and have had great support particularly in Vieux-Fort. We work with lifeguards as well as dive and snorkel operators and other volunteers from the community who assist in running the program.
The program, which we have successfully run in Curaçao in the past, is a four week program which includes lessons on Coral Reefs, Mangroves, Seagrass, reef fish and associated species. A special lesson on the lionfish is also included and participants get to eat lionfish. The children get to enjoy snorkeling at four different beaches and reefs on the island, all whilst learning a new life skill. Each snorkeling experience is different and the children and a few parents get to see all the common reef species like parrotfishes, yellowtail snappers, trumpetfish, grunts and sergeant majors. We have had a few rare sightings of lobsters, mating octopi, a small sting ray, porcupine fish and a reticulated eel (pictured above, credit Saphira Hunt).
Caribbean SEA is grateful to our sponsor La Mer for making it possible to bring an appreciation of the sea and marine life to the youth of Saint Lucia. We would like to thank Shala Monroque and the Saint Lucia Tourist Board for their valued assistance. The program was featured in the May 2013 issue of Vogue magazine. Special thanks to our volunteers including Stella Clingman (PCV), Johnson Charles, Kimberly Charles, Tessa Hinds, lifeguards Germain and Coach Andy and operators Mystic Man Tours, Dive Fair Helen, Tides Dive Shop, Island Divers and Scuba St. Lucia.
We welcome volunteers who would like to assist. For more information contact the Program Director for Saint Lucia, Nadia Cazaubon via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
For the first week of the SEA Creatures club, we will be making nautical-themed necklaces with the kids’ names on them, almost completely out of upcycled materials!
(The parrot and iguana are examples from other projects – we will be using other animals.)
This project can be high in prep time, but is easy enough for kids as young as 5 to participate in. It’s a great startoff project though because it helps to learn the kids’ names, separate them into smaller groups (each character type is a group), lets them be crafty and allows them to take something home to show their parents (which is important when trying to recruit kids for an after school activity!). Hopefully they’ll learn some about the animals they are coloring and recycling while we are at it!
Big thank you to Nami, Afua, and Grace who helped design this craft!!
How to make an Upcycled Necklace:
For ages 5+ years
– white paper (best if reused!)
– thin cardboard (from cereal-type boxes) or cardstock
– big needle
– colorful string (yarn is not recommended)
– this file is using my characters – Necklace Characters – Sea theme
1) Print the characters onto the white side of your reused paper. Cut them all out.
2) Glue the characters to the cardboard, fitting as many as possible onto each piece. Cut them out.
3) Use a big needle to poke a hole at the top of each character. Thread a piece of string (ours were about a meter long) through each hole.Alternative options:
-If you don’t have a printer, draw or trace characters onto the paper.
– In classrooms with enough scissors, allow older kids to cut their own characters out.
– colorful magazine (Thank you St. Lucia Tourist Board for donating ours!)
1) Take pages of the magazine and cut into long triangle shapes. They don’t need to be the same size.
– needle and thread
– spare fabric
– 5cm (2-inch) diameter circle to trace
1) Use a nail and hammer to tap holes through the middle of your bottlecaps.
2) Cut fabric into circles with a 5cm or 2 inch diameter.
3) Sew the fabric onto the bottlecap.
Now we are ready to find some kids! I borrowed my neighbor to be my model.
– Character Pendants w/ string
– scrap colored paper if adding names
– paper strips for beads
– glue (sticks if possible)
1) The kids should try to make the beads first. Sometimes they get glue everywhere and the beads have to dry before they can thread them. They need at least 5 beads (any odd number works though).
To make the beads:
Tell the kids to pick which side they like the most. Put that side on the bottom and start rolling from the fat end. As you roll about halfway up, put glue on the skinny part of the triangle.
Younger kids will need help and they may be loosely wrapped once they finish, but it’s their craft so I leave it unless they ask for help. Just grab the ends and pull the “tail” if they want it tighter though.Some kids will go very quickly – they can make more beads or move on to coloring!
I don’t have the string on this parrot yet, but if you are working with a lot of kids, it’s better to have as much stringed up beforehand as possible.
Glue a piece of scrap paper with the children’s names on their characters.
3) Add beads. We put both strings through one bead and the bottle cap (using a needle for the bottlecap), and then put the remaining beads on either side of the necklace.
Tie it all together and…
Mango Beach Inn in Marigot Bay, St. Lucia has always been one of our biggest supporters!! The Verity family has been such a blessing and I am sad to say I just moved out from the beautiful bed and breakfast yesterday after having stayed there the past two weeks. I cannot thank John and Judith enough for all their hospitality! But I can recommend that you stay there when you come to visit me in St. Lucia!
(and if you have a place to stay already, then I’m going to go ahead and recommend that you come to Marigot and eat at the Rainforest Hideaway!)
YAY! We survived!! Call me crazy, but I love Rainforest Camp!
This was my second time at the camp near the Des Cartier trail in St. Lucia (and Caribbean SEA’s 5th year of camp!) and even though by the end I was sleep deprived, covered in mosquito bites and extremely dirty, I would go back right now! You know, I am not a big fan of teenagers (and this year, camp was for 11-15 year olds) because they never really want to actually DO anything… They lose that enthusiasm that younger kids have. I think that they (think they) would much rather prefer just sitting around the camp talking to the other kids or better yet, eating, but once you get them to participate, it is amazing! For example, on Wednesday night, our favorite entomologist and counselor, Brendan, hooked up a light trap to attract bugs and I’m sure you can imagine the moans and groans we heard when the kids heard that they would have to look for bugs instead of planning their mushing attack plans, but once we gave them their containers and put them in front of that light, they didn’t want to stop! They wanted to know what every bug was and kept asking for bug containers during the rest of the camp so that they could look at the bugs they would find!
Our focus this year was Reforestation – the campsite was actually affected by multiple landslides after the hurricane and so it was a perfect area to plant trees that we gathered from another nearby trail. We also took the kids to snorkel at beautiful Anse Chastanet where we could show what a healthy reef looks like compared to those that have been smothered in sediment that flows from the rivers everytime it rains. And trust me, we had plenty of rain while we were there! The sad thing, although it made for a great teaching tool, the rivers surrounding our camp (and therefore our water, although our source is higher up on the mountain) were running orange because of all the sedimentation… but you know, that’s why we planted trees! and the Forestry Department of Saint Lucia has been preparing for a major islandwide reforestation day!
For even more fun, as part of our 5 year celebration, we got to go ziplining in Dennery! It was so much fun! We had some kids who were reluctant but once you got them on the line – WEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!
I have pictures loaded and on Facebook, and as soon as I get to a steady enough internet signal I can add them on here… (We’ll talk about what MaryBeth and I are doing right now on another post I think!). Until then, ciao mis amigos!
This coming Monday is the start of our 5th annual Rainforest Camp in St. Lucia! We will be camping overnight for a week in the rainforest area near Micoud, St. Lucia with about 50 kids, from 11 to 15 years of age! And on behalf of Mary Beth, our good friend Brendan and all the other counselors, can I just say… YIKES! Haha! Actually, we are all really really excited… There is something so amazingly fun about being out in nature without cell phone signal and electricity, under the stars and out with all the whistling frogs, tarantulas and oooohhh the beautiful St. Lucian parrots that fly over in the morning… We drink cocoa tea (like a spiced hot chocolate) and eat bakes (a kind of fried or grilled dough thing), salt fish, green figs and bread fruit, all so lovingly prepared by our head chef Mr. Mathurin and his team of whichever group of campers we’ve assigned to that particular meal. The camp is, of course, focused on a particular environmental topic – this year, due to the large impact of Hurricane Tomas in November, we will focus on reforestation and it’s role in water quality. We went shopping for supplies today and even had a little pre-camp fun with some of our kids from the Marigot Bay community while planning, water testing, jumping off of rocks and snorkeling.
Although it’s not easy to say how well camp will go, I am so extremely excited and optimistic about our plans for the next week! But ask me how much I like Rainforest Camp next Saturday… my opinion may completely change!
This is my second summer in Saint Lucia and while it doesn’t actually surprise me that pretty much everyone can spot Mary Beth and me from a mile away, I always get a kick out of hearing the kids yell at us while we’re on the road – “MARYBETH! MARYBETH! When is camp!?!”
Our goal here is to work with the communities, especially the kids, and get them excited about their environment. At Rainforest Camp, which is the last week in July, we take them to various place on the island (including the rainforest obviously, but also to see the reefs and mangroves) that they otherwise would probably not be able to visit. We show them why they should appreciate and respect their environment, then teach them the means to do so. Since we have kids from communities from all over the island, we also have them meet with their community groups to come up with ideas to keep the kids active throughout the year. And this year, I am actually moving to Saint Lucia to help them implement these ideas! (Although some of the groups have been doing a great job on their own!)
So we have excited kids, we have great community leaders, and hopefully I will be able to provide some extra resources for all of them in the next coming year. It sounds to me like it’s gonna be a pretty successful year for Caribbean SEA!
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