The district of West Bay is home to a unique opportunity for youngsters to connect with Cayman’s natural and cultural heritage.
Providing students a close up view of turtles and local wildlife, the Cayman Turtle Farm’s educational programs cater to children from kindergarten age up to high school.
“We have about 2,000 young people visit the Turtle Farm each year through our education program,” said Geddes Hislop, the Turtle Farm’s Curator for terrestrial exhibits and education programs.
He said visits are designed around the school curriculum, addressing a variety of subjects while offering visual, tactile and auditory learning.
“We cater to the various cognitive learning types, and our ‘living laboratory’ has a selection of lesson plans, exhibits, and experienced personnel to share practical knowledge in topics such as sciences, social studies, math, business and tourism,” said Mr. Hislop.
Popular topics include turtles, ecosystems, mangroves and local heritage.
“Kids studying the national symbols, for example, will get a presentation on the symbols, then we will use the tour to reinforce what was discussed,” Mr. Hislop said.
He noted Turtle Farm staff teach by using an integrated approach to reinforce lessons and to use as many learning styles as possible. The lesson usually ends with a conservation message that the children are encouraged to take home.
Recently a group of 5- and 6-year-old students from Savannah Primary School came to see some of the animals they had been looking at in books and writing about in their “Circle of Life” unit, where they learned about animal groups like amphibians, fish, birds and mammals.
Seeing the real-life animals proved to be an exciting and eye-opening experience for the students.
“That’s what’s so special about the Cayman Turtle Farm and why Cayman’s schools love to use it as a resource, as it makes the natural world come alive,” said the Turtle Farm’s acting chief marketing officer India Narcisse-Elliot.
Mr. Hislop explained that for children studying Cayman’s history and culture in their social studies class, the Turtle Farm offers field trips covering traditional practices like turtling, or exploring silver thatch.
“For the turtling lesson, we show them the model of the Goldfield turtling schooner. We have nets on hand for the students to try out. We talk about the whole process of catching turtles and bringing them to market,” he said.
“Basically, we make it as interactive as possible.”
Mr. Hislop said high school students studying tourism often take the opportunity to use the Turtle Farm for a case study, conducting surveys with visitors and learning about the farm’s tourism business model.
Mr. Hislop also conducts presentations at schools across Cayman on various topics.
“Getting a hands-on experience at the Turtle Farm is really a great way for Cayman’s students to learn about the islands’ animals, heritage and economy,” said Mr. Hislop.