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Discovering the beauty of the ocean

Royal Gazette
Thursday, June 15, 2017

Sierra Correia
Published Jun 6, 2017 at 9:58 am (Updated Jun 6, 2017 at 10:13 am)

"Living mermaid" Beth Neale, BZS educator Alex Amat, the new
BZS captain of Callista Trevor Rawson, and students from TN Tatem,
out on Trunk Island's beach
(Photograph supplied)

Catlin Kids made a big splash as a Bermuda Zoological Society environmental programme completed its fifth successful year.

This year’s annual two-day workshop saw the establishment of a “living classroom”, which allowed Bermudian schoolchildren to explore and learn about their local environment, according to a press release from the BZS.

The XL Catlin Kids on the Reef Programme, a partnership between the BZS and the I Am Water Foundation, takes local public school students outside of the classroom and into the ocean to teach them about the importance of marine life and conservation.

While an immersive experience, the programme also focuses on teaching students before they enter the water.

Students on Trunk Island’s beach for day one of the Catlin Kids on the Reef programme (Photograph supplied)

“The students learn about coral reef ecology, ocean conservation and personal development, and through yoga, they learn breath and body control, so they can develop an awareness that transfers to the water as they begin exploring — first through snorkelling and then free diving,” the Bermuda Zoological Foundation stated.

This year’s workshop was overseen by the I am Water Foundation’s “living mermaid”, Beth Neale, and BZS educator and programme co-ordinator Alex Amat.

“It was a privilege for me to once again have the opportunity to team up with Dr Amat and the BZS team to positively transform the lives of middle school Bermudians through the immersive two-day ocean conservation, education and experience programme,” Ms Neale said.

Students waiting to explore reefs in the Great Sound, with AC 35 practice
in the background
(Photograph supplied)

While many have admired Bermuda’s “beauty from above”, she continued, “we were able to introduce the children to the beauty below.”

Through the sponsorship of XL Catlin, the programme has provided 720 Bermudian middle schoolers with an opportunity to learn about the ocean that surrounds them, allowing them to consider potential “careers in marine conservation and coral reef ecology”.

The programme also offers ocean free diving courses for adults, in addition to this two-day course for schoolchildren.

Those with a personal interest can also obtain a Level 1 Free Diving certificate, although they are usually asked to be involved in four sessions with the kids.

Dr Amat said that the XL Catlin Kids on the Reef programme would not have seen such success had it not been for “the assistance of our amazing committed volunteers.”

He added: “Some have been helping for several years now and it is great to see the numbers of those helpers growing year after year. As the volunteers get more comfortable in the water and with free diving, they are able to give more to the children and it has been truly awesome to see these mentoring relationships flourish.

“The children look up to their group leaders, trust is put into place and they are able to get out of their comfort zone in a safe environment.”