Rotary Club aids Marine Institute

The 2008/09 theme for Rotary International is ‘Make Dreams Real’ and the Rotary Club of Grand Cayman has taken that theme to heart with local youth and their education about the environment and conservation.


Rotary Club of Grand Cayman and the Central Caribbean Marine Institute celebrate a new partnership dedicated to local youth, education and environment/conservation. Shown from left are Rotary President Derek Haines; CCMI spokesperson, Jessica Bodden; Rotary Director Cathy Chestnut; CCMI CEO, Jim O’Neill; CCMI Education Chair, Bart Hedges; and Rotary Director Ajit Ambekar. Photo: Submitted

‘Our textbooks came alive on this trip and allowed us to further appreciate our ecosystem from a participant’s perspective,’ commented students from John Gray High School during a pilot Eco-Weekend. Rotary has enabled more textbooks come alive, ‘making dreams real’, with their new partnership with the Central Caribbean Marine Institute.

CCMI has proven a valuable asset to the effort of understanding changing coral reef and tropical marine environments, and its research and education programs have established a solid foundation for future reef education and awareness in the Caribbean and for students and researchers from around the world.

A key component of the organization’s strategy was realized in May 2006 with the opening of the Little Cayman Research Center. Laboratories, a classroom, dormitory-style and private rooms, and a sustainable off-the-grid bathhouse. Easy access to the reefs make this an important new research and education center for all of the Cayman Islands.

Rotary’s partnership with CCMI involves a full programme launch of CCMI’s Eco-Weekends, which are classroom scholarships for local youth to attend an educational weekend aimed to increase their overall awareness on environment and conservation.

For the Eco-Weekends, the youth are in resident at the Little Cayman Research Centre with a well-developed curriculum and a myriad of ecology-based topics and activities to highlight what they can do to make a difference.

‘This new partnership with the Rotary Club of Grand Cayman represents a substantial commitment to educate Cayman’s youth ‘one on one’ using hands on techniques, giving them real life experiences’, comments Jim O’Neill, CEO of CCMI.

‘Launching the Eco-Weekends is going to have a great impact on the community as these youth apply their new knowledge.’

During the pilot Eco-Weekend in March, which was sponsored Greenlight RE, both the students and the teachers gave the Eco-Weekend concept outstanding accolades. Knowing they had a winning formula, CCMI was able to give the proverbial ‘green light’ to move forward on the full programme launch for the 2008/09 school year. The Rotary Club of Grand Cayman recognised the value of the Eco-Weekend concept and embraced it with a commitment, which will take CCMI’s Eco-Weekends to the next level.

‘For the 2008/09 Rotary year, our club has selected the Eco-Weekends as it includes a successful positive result on youth, education and environment, all in one program’, said Rotary President Derek Haines.

‘We are pleased that Rotary is able to be instrumental in shifting the Eco-Weekend concept into a fully operational programme that will benefit youth, and the Cayman Islands, for years to come.’

The Eco-Weekend students study a wide range of topics covering marine ecology and conservation, and learn new field sampling techniques with the aim of improving their analytical and critical thinking skills. Students are active in collecting samples and working together in analyzing data from several coastal environments including the rocky shoreline and sea grass habitats.

During the programme, students observe and study first hand the importance of mangroves to our shores and juvenile fish populations as well as how Cayman reef structure was formed, how to identify the common reef fish, and understanding sustainable fishing practices.

The instructors will use the Marine Park laws to help the students understand why conch, lobster and Nassau grouper populations are currently protected. At the end of the Eco-Weekend, the students summarise the experience with presentations at the end of their stay.

At the beginning and end of each weekend, students complete a short entry and exit questionnaire to assess their level of learning. During the pilot Eco-Weekend, test results showed a dramatic increase in their understanding of all topics that were introduced.

‘Only three weeks into their new year, the Rotary Club of Grand Cayman has already shown their commitment to the theme ‘Make Dreams Real’ comments Jim O’Neill.

‘The Eco-Weekend students will gain information to ‘make their textbooks come alive’, as well as be mentally equipped with the to make good decisions and share their new knowledge with their families and peers. We see a bright future ahead.’

For more information on CCMI’s Eco-Weekends, please contact Kellie at [email protected].