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Some 20 students and 5 teachers of the Guinea Grass Pentecostal School visited Belize's Barrier Reef for the first time last weekend courtesy of Oceana in Belize. The event, part of Oceana's community education and outreach campaign, was granted to the top 20 standard six students as a graduation treat in an attempt to expose them to Belize's marine wonders and encourage them to learn more about, and help protect, their marine patrimony.

"Wow!" "I want to come back again tomorrow." "I am so glad I got to make this trip." Were some of the comments of the very excited students who explained that they learnt about some these marine areas and animals in their science class but never thought it would be so amazing to actually experience it. At part of the tour the students travelled to Caye Caulker on Saturday, May 26th. They were accompanied by Belizean tour guides who briefed them on what to expect and on the use of snorkeling gear, as none of the students had previously snorkeled.

Click here to read the rest of the article and see more photos in the San Pedro Sun

Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 84,400
Marty Offline OP
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Oceana takes kids on educational tour

On June eighth, World's Ocean day will be celebrated across the globe. With the oceans in trouble, the celebration is taking on new meaning. In Belize, Oceana is organizing various events for youths who have not been to the reef and marine sites. This past Saturday, it treated the students from a Guinea Grass school to an all day event. Now, the primary school students are well acquainted with rivers but they had not had the opportunity to venture out to sea to experience its wonders. News Five's Delahnie Bain reports.

"Snorkelers are you okay, like this you won’t be able to talk; snorkelers need minor adjustments with their fins, one hand in the air; snorkelers need to get out of the water now, wave both hands."

Delahnie Bain, Reporting

With those safety tips in mind, the twenty excited standard six students along with four teachers and the principal from Guinea Grass Pentecostal School were ready for a first-time experience swimming at the Belize Barrier Reef. The trip was a part of Oceana's community education and outreach campaign to expose young people, particularly from rural areas, to the country's marine wonders.

Audrey Matura-Shepherd

Audrey Matura-Shepherd, Vice President, Oceana Belize

"We need to inspire our children to know that there is a career and right now, nothing against the visiting scientists who come and study our resources; that's great but unfortunately it's mostly non-Belizeans who come and do these studies when we can get our people involved and there is a whole new realm of opportunities for them. That's one. Two, we want them to know that when we tell you that you own your marine resources, that it's your patrimony, it's your heritage, it's not just lip service, it's actually there, you actually own it, it's your duty to keep it clean, to keep it protected, to use it responsibly, to preserve it. So that's the second thing we want and the third is that we really genuinely want to foster relationships with communities."

Gilbert Maskall

It was a fun filled day as the kids visited Coral Garden, swam with sharks and rays at Shark Ray Alley and observed got a true appreciation of Belize's biodiversity at Tarpon City.

Gilbert Maskall, Tour Guide

"I actually amazed dat dehn get een yah so quick because my first time I mi still pan board di check it out. So I amazed dat dehn overcome dehn fears so quick and dehn embrace dis, but different folks, different strokes and dehn pickney yah dehn really outstanding."

Audrey Matura Shepherd

"We thought that when we went to Shark Ray Alley, that they would have been afraid. The kids were jumping in, the broke out into Spanish explaining what they were seeing and they were just amazed, they couldn't stop talking about it. They were telling their teacher that they wished they could come back more."

Carlos Reyes

And while everyone enjoyed themselves, they also learned that Shark Ray Alley, a popular snorkeling spot, was once at risk of losing its appeal.

Carlos Reyes, Tour Guide

"We used to come out yah, three years straight we had more sharks and more sting rays eena di area den we gone through wah time where no sharks neva deh round because di guys from Sarteneja used to capture the sharks and fillet dem. We had to slow down pan dis and just ker dehn to wah area weh pah dah mi just reef. Right now ih more protected thanks to the government and di people weh work een yah, lotta different NGOs and stuff weh di tek care ah di area so ih more hard fi fisherman come eena dis are and tek anything. So dats why we have more shark, more fish, more everything."

Arnaldo Perez

The experience, according to Science Teacher, Arnaldo Perez, will certainly make his class more interesting.

Arnaldo Perez, Science Teacher, Guinea Grass Pentecostal School

"Whenever you have a firsthand experience you know you can teach with the feeling and with experience which is totally different than just showing a picture. Imagine if the children ask the question, have you seen one personally, have you touched one? It would be I would say disappointing to say no, teaching something that you have never had a firsthand experience."

Noe Lopez, Principal, Guinea Grass Pentecostal School

"Sometimes you only know where you are, you come out then you find out that there is much more to be seen. I am grateful to you people."

And to add the perfect end to a great day, the students were also lucky to spot a pod of dolphins on their way back to Belize City. Delahnie Bain for News Five.

Oceana has pledged to donate a high school grant to the school's top science student at their graduation on June twenty-first. The students also have the opportunity to win cash prizes by writing an essay on their experience at the reef. Matura Shepherd says they are still accepting requests to become a part of the outreach program during the summer.

Channel 5

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