The United Nations (UN) proclaimed May 22nd the International Day for Biological Diversity (IDB) to increase understanding and awareness of biodiversity issues. Every year the then Ministry of Environment and Drainage, now referred to as the Ministry of Environment and National Beautification, plans activities based on the theme. Folkestone Marine Reserve and Museum was chosen as an example of one success story as the island’s first marine protected area and also in keeping with the celebration of the International Year of the Reef by the Coastal Zone management Unit (CZMU).
International Day for Biological Diversity was observed on May 22nd, 2018 with the theme “Celebrating 25 Years of Action for Biodiversity” with “International Year of the Reef” being the focus. During the week of May 14th-18th 2018, the Ministry of Environment and National Beautification, along with its National Conservation Commission partnered with the Ministry of Education hosted a field trip to the Folkestone Marine Reserve and Museum. Six (6) schools participated: St. Bartholomew Primary, Eagle Hall Primary School, St. Christopher Primary, Ellerton Primary, Wesley Hall Infants and Wesley Hall Junior School.
Approximately 500 students ranging 4-11 years and teachers were collected from their schools during the week of activities and transported to the Folkestone Marine Reserve and Museum, where they would begin their tour. Prior to the tour, Assistant Project Coordinator (Biodiversity), Jamilla Sealy, explained to the students the reason for the tour. She then went on to educate the students on the meaning of ‘biodiversity’ and helped them to identify with the concept through the use of every-day examples.
The students, teachers and staff from the Ministry visited the Presentation Room first, where they were allowed to view a video about the importance of coral reefs and their inhabitants. Then another was viewed which thoroughly explained the history and purpose of the Folkestone Marine Reserve.
Next the museum section was entered, where the students were exposed to the skeletons of a number of common marine species. The students were most captivated by the jaws of a shark and the skeleton of a beaked whale. They were also shown types of coral and other plant-like animals, jars filled with preserved marine organisms, an array of shells produced by numerous marine species. The tour facilitator explained the ecological roles of these organisms in an effort to raise the awareness of the students. There were also posters around the room and most distinctly was that showing the sharks of the Caribbean.
The museum also contained a photographic tour of the history of the marine park (marine protected area) and various fishing methods and instruments from the past.
Lastly, the students were given a small treat which included observing marine biodiversity through a number of the aquariums housed within the museum area of the marine park. They thoroughly enjoyed seeing the fish and other marine species in the aquariums. Species included the popular clownfish, colourful ‘fighters’, jacks, sergeant majors, eel and scorpion fish. The most exciting was the exotic alien invasive species lionfish which were also on display.
Afterwards, the students were treated to lunch and allowed to enjoy the facilities of the marine park in their own way, under the supervision of their teachers. There some of the children spoke about what they saw and some also engaged the tour facilitators more about the fish species seen.