Saturday 29 January 2011

Teaching children about the oceans

Hi all

Today I made some new friends while helping my buddy Steve to teach children about the ocean. I took my sister Bella along as well. She has her own adventures and weblog.
These children were as passionate about the ocean as I am and when they found out how the ocean is in danger, they were pleased to find out that there were things they could do to help.

Steve explained that I have been travelling the oceans to find out more about global issues since I found out that my local beach was in danger from climate change. We started the session with a quick yes or no quiz to find out what the children already knew.

We then asked the children to draw a line between different points on a map. The only rule was they could not cross any land.
When they had finished the children realised that all the seas and oceans and linked together forming one big ocean. This one big ocean joins us all together.

We then asked the children if all sea animals could travel from one ocean to another. They said no. We then asked them what might stop animals doing this. The children suggested things like water temperature, depth, salinity, land and hiding places. We then asked if there were any animals that could travel from one ocean to another and the children decided that whales could. Wow they had already learned loads about the oceans and the course had only just started.

We then did a quiz about sound. For many land animals, sight is their most important sense. But underwater it might be dark and murky so many animals communicate using sounds, even some fish.
To explore the world of underwater sounds, the children did a sound quiz. These sounds included humpback whales, bearded seals, herring gull, striped grunt fish, snapping shrimps, undersea earthquake and a ships propellers. The children had to decide which sound was which.

I also told the children a bit about the beach where I live and the special plants that grow there which make a special habitat called vegetated shingle. The plants are also home to many birds, insects and even lizards.

They also found out about some of the other characters I had met on my travels, such as Fred the Happy Face Monkey. If you have been following my travels you will know I met Fred and his buddy Ron Hirshi  in Marrowstone Islands and travelled with them to Kauai, one of the Hawaiian Islands. Can you see the beautiful sea turtle coming up on the beach behind us.
I learned a lot about marine debris and the Laysan Albatross who suffer terribly because of this litter. The children will find out more about that later.

We discussed what kind of objects make up marine debris asked the children to suggest how marine debris might end up in the ocean. They looked at some pictures of some of the places I had visited where marine debris was a big problem.  They come up with many ideas; people leave it on the beach, it comes from boats, activities like fishing and some gets blown into rivers and washed down to the sea. We then discussed how this could harm wildlife.

To help them understand the problem of marine debris better we looked at the Laysan Albatross. Steve has devised a species activity which replicates the problem these albatross face.

In this activity the children work in small groups of 3. Each group will be a Laysan albatross family living on the Hawaiian Islands where they nest. Laysan albatross have one chick.

Each parent bird will take it in turns to collect food for their chick, represented by the many cards on the floor. Face down, the cards will either be food items of plastic litter. However, like the albatross, you will not know if it is food or plastic litter that you are taking back.

Each group recorded the items collected for their chick. These ranged from squid to plastic items such as bottle tops, plastic toys, disposable lighter and many other objects.

This group is lucky and seem to have only collected squid

The child then have to add up how many food items and how many plastic debris items they collected for their chick. If only a small amount of plastic is eaten, the chick could regurgitate it. The children were asked if they thought their chick had survived. We then discussed that the problem is even more complex. Some chicks swallow lead paint chips which are poisonous, making them weaker and more at risk from dying from swallowing plastic debris.

The children were asked if they were surprised by the type of objects that made up this plastic marine litter that the albatross accidentally fed to their chicks. They said they were. I was surprised too when I first found out from Fred the Monkey.
After looking at some more of the amazing animals I saw on my travels, we then did some activities about climate change and the damage that this is doing to the oceans. Climate change is causing the polar ice to melt, which will cause sea level rise on land but may also damage the ocean currents that create our weather and climate. The children also found out how climate change is killing corals and disrupting food webs - even around the UK.

All of these are very scary. However there are many people I meet on my travels who are helping the oceans.
In the Mote Laboratory they are growing corals in special tanks which will be used to help repair a damaged coral reef. NOAA, with whom I spent many months last year, look after 14 marine sanctuaries set up to protect the marine habitat and the animals that live there. And of course Ron Hirshi and Fred the Monkey who are doing really important work raising awareness of plastic litter, including the tiny bits of plastic that float in the ocean and helping to keep their local beach clean from plastic.

I also visited a hospital where they rescue sea turtles. This is me and sanctuary Sam with Scooter a rescued turtle. We also told the children about other people I had meet who are helping the ocean too.

We all contribute towards climate change because of modern living (even me and Steve!). But there are lots of ways that we can do things differently that will help the environment. We asked the children to think about things that they could do to reduce the impact they have on the oceans.
They came up with lots of good ideas. We can turn of computers and lights when they are not being used.

We can make sure we recycle all we can and dispose of things properly if they can't be recycled.
Water is very valuable, we need to make sure we don't waste this valuable resource.

One of the children, called Joe, came up with a very good way to describe what we should do. He said we need to use these things more wisely.
The children made a list of the things they plan to do to help reduce their impact on the oceans and then they signed a pledge to me, Ed the Bear, to do their best to follow their list.

The children were really excited that they could do something to help the ocean.

It was a very fun time

Bye for now, Ed the Bear

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