Doing conservation work in Moalboal has been a dream; there are so many dedicated and inspiring people that have supported me at every step, from local government officials to dive centre managers and teachers. Alongside my Green Fins Assessor role, my personal project was …
To strengthen the marine education content in school education of Moalboal through enhancing the capacity of key individuals locally.
The project got off to an amazing start in our first days in Moalboal when the Green Fins team went to the municipality office to meet the Mayor and local government officials.
Fortuitiously the District Supervisor of the Department of Education happened to also be there and he was not only supportive of the project, but wanted to extend the reach to schools throughout Cebu. Within a few hours the Green Fins coordinators found ourselves at a dinner with ten teachers arranged by Jinky, an Environmental Officer at her restaurant, The Last Filling Station. We were also graced by the presence of Father Murphy Sarsonas, a diving priest and member of the Sea Knights, (a faith-inspired, service-oriented organization that envisions the sustainable use of coastal and marine resources through responsible communities http://www.seaknights.com.) Father Murphy shared stories about how putting religious icons underwater has helped to prevent dynamite fishing in some areas and he offered his support with the project. Some of the teachers had been involved in a Green Fins project last year and had set up a Teachers’ association, the BeBFG, (Brilliant educators For a Better Future Generation). The next step was to have a consultation meeting with the teachers to see how best to support them this year.
The Municipality Park was chosen as an ideal location, central and pleasant with a seated area, the sea on one side and a grassy area with the marine themed murals on the municipality buildings on the other. However, when we arrived the local marching band had also decided it was the ideal location for a practice. A few teachers arrived and we managed to just about make audible conversation when a huge storm broke and the teachers ran to the serving area for cover. After a huge downpour the rain stopped, the teachers returned and we were able to assure the remaining teacher that it was safe and coax her out from behind the counter and take the cardboard box off her head. More teachers who had been delayed by the rain arrived and we settled down again only for the band to return to their drumming with a vengeance. Fortunately, Jinky came to the rescue and ordered them to march away and practice at the end of the jetty. As the sun came out it provided a nice soundtrack and an atmospheric backdrop to a very useful and informative consultation.
In order to plan activities for schools that would be appropriate and manageable with available resources and facilities a visit was organized to Bugho Elementary School. We were warmly welcomed by all ten teachers and students in each class from kindergarten to Grade 6 on our guided tour. It was really encouraging to see the effort made by teachers to provide stimulating and colourful educational displays, bins for separating waste, upcycling art projects and gardening areas. I was also impressed by the innovative flip flop fence!
As a teacher myself, I wanted to be sure that my project wouldn’t be an added burden to people who already work really hard, but something that would be enjoyable and make their job easier. I set to work preparing activities and games that would actively engage teachers and students while at the same time learning about marine conservation and covering curriculum requirements. I was also aware that if someone was asking me to teach about something I knew little about or wasn’t particularly interested in, I would find it difficult. Providing information was important, but providing inspiration even more so. To this end the first part of the IEC, (Information Education Communication) campaign was to take the teachers snorkeling to see first hand the beautiful coral reefs of Moalboal. Divers flock here from around the world to see the marine life, yet many local people never get to experience it for themselves.
We began with a short presentation on what they would be likely to see, then watched some video footage by Klemens Gann at Blue Abyss Dive Shop. The videos are shot around Moalboal and are breathtaking; showing gorgeous corals, frogfish yawning, pygmy seahorses on their fans and thresher sharks hunting sardines. Sam provided a commentary with lots of interesting facts about the marine life. The teachers were now very excited and ready to don their equipment and discover the underwater world.
Although many teachers were nervous for their first snorkeling experience, they soon forgot their fears and were swimming over the dropoff, pointing out fish they recognized and trying out a regulator attached to a scuba tank. By the time we returned for some hot Milo all of them signed up to try Discover Scuba Diving! It was an incredibly rewarding day, thanks to the enthusiasm of the teachers and the support of the whole Green Fins team, made even better by one of the most beautiful sunsets I have ever seen as relaxed on the beach at the end of the day. The event was featured on the Blue Abyss website http://www.blueabyssdiving.com/reef-protection/
The DSD training was provided by another really supportive dive centre – Savedra (http://www.savedra.com), with excellent instruction by Course Director, Lee Butler. I was so proud of the teachers, many of whom had been nervous snorkeling, to rise to the challenge and receive their certificate at the end of the session. One group were rewarded by the awe inspiring sight of the schooling sardines currently on the Panagsama House Reef. To be underwater amongst the swirling, silvery patterns is something incredibly special and something they will never forget.
In my time I have fidgeted through many training and professional development sessions wondering how long until the next coffee break, so I was determined to make the information session for teachers as engaging and enjoyable as possible.
For each segment of information I added a game or activity to take part in such as a board game where participants got to keep a sweet if they were able to throw it onto a safe habitat rather than land on a threat such as spear fishers, marine debris or pollution. Teachers eagerly took part in a Coral Race for Survival game, linking arms to become a colony when they got a ‘coral success card’ and there was some very entertaining crab and plastic bag imitations in the Turtle Danger game. Father Murphy also attended the day, participated in all the activities and shared his knowledge and love of the marine world. The afternoon was spent planning and making resources. Many teachers were late for the session, (a regular occurrence), so we spent the time learning The Coral Song and recorded it when everyone arrived. Duncan and Anita, (with support from the indefatigable Jinky), also managed to invade the municipality offices downstairs and get local government officials to sing a version complete with some impressive air guitar.
And so it is as I reach the end of my ZEP that I have come full circle to return to that catchy little tune.
To follow up on the teacher training, Duncan and I visited one of the schools and were treated to the entire school singing and doing actions to The Coral Song ensuring that it will be in my head for the foreseeable future. Which brings me to yet another inspiring person in Moalboal – the Headteacher at Tomonoy Elementary is part of a group of bikers who take part in cleanups and post-disaster community support. With a community so vibrant and conservation-minded the future looks bright and brilliant for Moalboal!