Cayman’s teachers and students can now talk with students all over the mangrove world, thanks to a new interactive website launched by the Mangrove Action Project.

Marvellousmangroves.org has been several years in the making, according to the project’s education director, Martin Keeley.

“We have just spent the last couple of weeks working with Year 5 students at Edna Moyle Primary School in North Side to iron out the bugs and make sure the site is up and running,” he said.

The site is an extension of the Marvellous Mangroves education program, which was introduced into Cayman’s schools in 2001. The subject has been taught to every Year 5 at every school, where it is part of the science/social studies curriculum. It is currently being taught by Catherine Childs, education director of the National Trust, and is sponsored by Caribbean Utilities Company.

Worldwide program

Since its introduction, the program has been translated and adapted for use in 13 countries.

The primary purpose, according to Mr. Keeley, is to allow teachers and students around the world “to explore the wonderful world of mangroves in their own country in their own language.”

Mr. Keeley is also the University College of the Cayman Islands’ Brac campus director and founder of the Mangroves and Reefs Education Project.

“The site was designed under the supervision of the Mangrove Action Project’s IT whiz, Leo Thom, and follows the same five-section structure as the Marvellous Mangroves teachers guide,” he said.

“Teachers and students will not only be able to explore mangrove ecology in their own countries – where the site allows teachers to pose questions and students to answer them and record their own findings – it will [also] enable them to find out what their counterparts in other countries are doing and seeing.”

Online interaction, outdoor trips

“This Marvellous Mangroves program is so worthwhile,” said Janice Brown, Year 5 teacher at Edna Moyle Primary, whose class piloted the project. “It not only teaches students about the values and vital need to protect the mangroves, [it also] involves the students learning in an interactive way through the website and through fascinating outdoor field trips.”

The students were introduced to the world of mangroves through classroom activities by the Trust’s Ms. Childs, who also posed several skill-testing questions on the new site. Classroom activities were followed by a field trip to the Central Mangroves run by Sea Elements and a final classroom follow-up when students wrote and drew their impressions and entered them on the classroom’s smartboard.

“Recording on the website took a little getting used to,” Ms. Brown said, “but once they did, the students were able to transfer their findings from their notebooks to the site. The Marvellous Mangroves program, whether it’s the actual hands-on exploration or the new website … facilitates the use of different learning skills in a way that is very valuable.”

How to use the site

Students and teachers register online and can add their observations and findings, including photographs and data, once approved by a moderator. Another environmental educator, Marnie Laing, then posts the information on the site. Ms. Laing taught the program for several years before Ms. Childs took over.

“We live in a world where the internet and social media are dominating factors,” said Mr. Keeley, “but what we tend to forget is that many students and teachers in other mangrove countries don’t even have science labs – often not even reliable electricity.

“Marvellous Mangroves bridges that gap by providing hands-on science activities. We also give many schools studying mangroves light source microscopes and magnifying lenses to help them set up Mangrove Clubs.

“These, in turn, provide the core for science labs to be established.”

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