This week we wrapped up our Youth Camp program. We’ve been working with the campers to write and illustrate a book about a parrotfish named Pedro. Each day at camp, we work with the kids to write a new section of the story where Pedro travels to a different ecosystem we learned about the previous day. We host the book workshop at the beginning of the day and move onto activities to teach them about a new ecosystem in the second half of camp.
Mariella from Hol Chan came to speak to the campers about marine reserves and the importance of having protected areas. She had a fun game for the campers the play where they all went ‘fishing’ for marshmallows. In the end there were no marshmallow ‘fish’ left, and the kids learned from this why it’s so important to have catch limits and marine reserves. She also brought in a preserved hawksbill sea turtle for the kids to see, and quizzed them afterwards on all the facts they learned. The campers had a lot of good ideas about how marine reserves work to protect biological communities. Afterwards, the kids learned about the deep sea! They watched a video on adaptations that marine creatures need to live in the deep, and then drew two self portraits: one of themselves on land, and one of themselves with a deep sea adaptation.
The campers answering questions about the importance of marine reserves.
The campers ‘overfishing’ marshmallows as a demonstration on the importance of fishing restrictions.
Marcos and Tristian looking at a preserved hawksbill sea turtle from Hol Chan.
AnnElyse drawing her two self portraits: one of her on land, and one of her with adaptations to live in the deep sea.
Daniel showing his before and after self portraits with deep sea adaptations.
Crocodile Chris and his intern Ryan from ACES came to teach the kids about crocodiles and the importance of protecting them to keep the mangrove ecosystem in balance. We were impressed by how much the kids already knew about crocodiles! Nonetheless, they loved hearing Chris and Ryan talk, and had many questions for them.
The Coral Ed kids getting up close and personal with crocodile skulls.
Crocodile Chris and his intern Ryan from ACES answering questions about the importance of crocodiles.
Wednesday was the first day of graduation preparation. With help from the teachers, the kids began to make posters and models showing off what they had learned these past weeks. Some of the campers even got to make blue slime, which was a big hit! The campers also got a cool treat from Paradice Cream, who donated free ice cream! They were all very excited because Paradice is considered the best ice cream on the island.
Our friends from Paradice Cream came to give the kids a cool treat.
AJ and Jarvin working on their final projects for graduation.
Karen, Gaby, Jaslyn, and Kenia playing with blue slime.
Daniel and AnnElyse working together to make a poster for graduation.
Today was the final day of camp! We helped all of the campers finish up their projects and were so impressed by some of the results! This year their projects ranged from posters of coral polyp physiology, models of the reef, and even a slide show about all of the animals important to the barrier reef and the major threats facing them. We also spent a lot of time putting the murals together and finishing up the book!
Jasmine all ready for graduation with her finished final project: a model showing the beach, mangroves, and reef.
We held our annual Coral Ed Graduation celebration on Thursday night at the Lions Den. The space was decorated with the kid’s artwork, and several local businesses donated tasty treats. The atmosphere was festive, and there was a good turnout of friends and family of the campers. We started off the ceremony with a reading of the book the campers have written and illustrated. It came out beautifully, and will be available in paper copy at the San Pedro Library in the future!
When it came time for the kids to present their final projects, we were so impressed with how much they had learned! We were very proud teachers to say the least. Calling each camper up on stage to present them with their Coral Reef Expert Card was emotional for all. We concluded the ceremony with a video made from highlights of both the R.E.E.F. Program and the Youth Camp. Once graduation was over, campers and their parents lined up to give us all hugs and take pictures with us. It was a beautiful night that really made us feel like part of the community. As a thank you, some of the campers even made us coral reef expert cards to show their appreciation!
The theme of this mural was “Protecting Our Communities.” This mural depicts Ambergris Caye with all of the protected areas outlined.
The second mural: “Whose Reef Is It?” Campers filled out cards based on who they thought the reef belonged to. In the end we concluded that the reef is all of ours!
Tristian’s poster he made about the Blue Hole.
Evan made an awesome poster detailing the physiology of a coral polyp!
Jarvin’s poster shows the barrier reef, and tells people to “Protect the reef,” and “Keep La Isla Bonita clean!”
Bessy’s detailed model of the reef! She presented this in front of the whole audience and told them all the reasons the reef is important.
The audience full of friends and family getting ready to see their campers graduate!
The Coral Reef Expert Cards the campers made for us!
FRIDAY: THE GLASS BOTTOM BOAT TRIP
The most anticipated part of camp for the kids finally arrived when we took them out on a glass bottom boat trip to Hol Chan and Shark Ray Alley. It was so fun to see the kids excitedly pointing out all of the different corals they had learned at camp! They loved getting up close and personal with the nurse sharks. One group of campers even saw dolphins!
Some of the campers getting ready to head to Hol Chan on the glass bottom boat.
The campers at Hol Chan looking at some of the corals they learned about at camp!
OUR LAST DAYS IN SAN PEDRO
On Saturday we were treated to a delicious lunch at a local restaurant owned by the family of some of our campers. We all felt so honored to be hosted by this wonderful family. It made all of our hard work seem appreciated by the community. We spent the rest of the day dropping off thank you cards to our donors and grabbing tasty treats from some of our favorite spots!
Sharing a delicious lunch at El Fogon with campers Olivia and Kaydin!
We are now packed up and ready to begin our trip back to Smith. It’s hard to believe that six weeks have flown by so fast! We’ve all made so many unforgettable memories, and have learned so much about this beautiful place we got to call home. I know I’m not alone in expressing deep gratitude for the opportunity to live and teach in this wonderful community. A big thank you to Smith College, Hol Chan, and the people of San Pedro!