We’ve completed two outreach events we’ve organized as part of the 2015 Philippines Verde island Passage expedition. It has been a really remarkable experience getting to connect with local Filipinos to educate them about marine biodiversity and environmental sustainability.
Our first outreach event was for a group of about 60 high school teachers at the Puerto Galera National High School. Although they all lived and taught not very far from the ocean, they learned a lot about the marine life in their local area, from tunicates to barnacles to nudibranch.
Our “habitat in a bucket” activity had them occupied for a long time, as they inquired into the relationships among the sand, rock, coral, seaweed, algae, and marine animals.
Getting to meet and talk with both American and Filipino scientists was also a high point of the outreach. Dr. Bob von Syoc impressed them with his knowledge of barnacles. Dr. Sarah Cohen shared her love of the tiny marine animals called tunicates. And Filipino scientists Jenire Miravite and Joseph Comendador shared their personal scientific interests (marine biology and sea sponges) and brought important local perspectives.
At the end of the teacher outreach, the educators shared what their major takeaways were from the training. Several talked about different lessons that they planned on doing in their classrooms, from bringing in local specimens to doing scientific sketching to encouraging more sustainable practices in their schools. One teacher moved us all with his impassioned question, “Why is it that foreigners come to the Philippines and get so inspired that they create a Philippine aquarium exhibit, but we Filipinos have not done the same for ourselves?”
It was really amazing seeing these teachers so inspired by the biodiversity in their own backyard. We left them with USB drives with our lessons, paper handouts, and internet links. But most of all I hope that we left them with the mental tools and emotional motivation to improve their practice as educators, and impact their students’ lives dramatically.