MFF India is partnersip with IUCN member, OMCAR Foundation, brought together 50 students and teachers for a two-day awareness camp on marine and coastal ecosystems! Held on 27 and 28 November 2013 at OMCAR'S Palk Bay Center, the students (between the ages of 12 and 14 years) represented 5 different schools in the Thanjavur district of Tamil Nadu.
The camp started off with inspiring words from Commander Manish Agarwal (Naval Detachment of Mallipattinam) Mr. Sendhilnathan (Dean of Anna University, Pattukkottai campus), and Mr. Balasubramanium (Sub Inspector of Tamil Nadu Marine Police, Sethubhavachattiram), on the need for learning and understanding our marine and coastal ecosystems and their functioning. MFF India expressed the hope that in understanding their importance, the students would actively commit to helping organizations, like IUCN, in protecting these important resources.
Over the course of the two days, thanks to the dedicated efforts of Dr. Balaji and the OMCAR Foundation team, the camp ran flawlessly, with a number of different activities simultaneously running to engage the students in effective learning. Topics included mangroves, coral reefs and seagrass beds; these lessons were enriched by field trips to the Thanjavur beach, the Muthupet mangroves, and a mangrove nursery. Ecological research techniques and the variety of underwater equipment used to collect related data, was presented to the students. A diverse sample of gastropods, fish and plankton found along the Palk Bay coast was displayed for the children to examine.
At the end of the camp students passionately discussed and committed to protecting the coastal environment, sharing their observations on threats to, and means of preventing the unnecessary destruction of coastal habitats. Devi (14 years old) noted that waste was becoming a large problem in her coastal village, and something as simple as raising awareness and informing her neighbors of the right ways in which to discard waste, could help solve the problem in the long term; she promised to speak up about this to her fellow villagers. Surindar (13 years old) expressed the irony in us destroying the very coastal and marine habitats that protect us and provide us with so many services, particularly when not so long ago they protected us from the effects of the tsunami.
The students articulated their desire to study related subjects, with many expressing a desire for a library where they can read and learn about marine and coastal ecosystems and biodiversity in their own time. The teachers too, requested to be capacity built to teach marine and coastal related topics in the classroom, on a daily basis. The camp ended on a happy note with all students and teachers vowing to pass on the lessons learnt at the camp, to their fellow students.