Students explore mangroves as part of marine workshops

Dr. Connie Sanchez responds to a question from Kamila Ebanks-Matos, with Maggie Gschnitzer at right.

Junior students at Sir John A. Cumber learned about different marine topics over the past few weeks thanks to presentations at the school on mangroves and on protecting marine wildlife.

On March 15 and 17, National Trust education manager Catherine Childs visited the school to conduct workshops with the Year 5 classes on the importance of Cayman’s mangrove ecosystems. The program is offered to public schools in Grand Cayman.

In addition to attending the workshop, the students will take a boat trip through the mangroves in April.

Teacher Annette Vaughan said the Year 5 students are studying mangroves as part of their unit on ecosystems, which includes the concepts of conservation and preservation and maintaining a balance.

“Mangroves are known to provide critical ecosystem services to the community, including protection from storms, nursery areas for commercially important fish species, maintenance of our beautiful clear water and storage of carbon to slow climate change, and essential habitat for many of our wildlife species,” Ms. Childs noted.

The workshop also included experiments and investigations into how mangroves adapt to saline water.

Sir John A. Cumber students with Maggie Gschnitzer, left, and Dr. Connie Sanchez, right, of the Sea Shepherds.

“The students gained valuable information from the interesting and interactive workshop and express appreciation to Ms. Childs and the sponsors for their commitment to the program,” said Ms. Vaughan.

On March 22, students in Years 4 through 6 were visited by two crew members of the M/V John Paul DeJoria, a 110-foot fast patrol boat operated by the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. The ship, which was on its way to South America to support the Colombian coast guard in its efforts to fight shark fin poaching, visited the Cayman Islands in March.

The two presenters were Sea Shepherd volunteers with several years of experience working with the organization: Dr. Connie Sanchez, an American doctor who provides medical services, among other assistance, and Maggie Gschnitzer, an Italian who has also served in a number of capacities as a crew member aboard the ship.

The presenters spoke about their role as Sea Shepherds and the importance of preserving and protecting the marine environment, Ms. Vaughan told the Cayman Compass.

After their presentation, which included video clips on how human actions can positively or negatively affect marine life and its environment, the two representatives spent time answering questions from the audience.

Maggie Gschnitzer takes a question from student J’dayah Allen.
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