Marine Mornings Program for Schools in Galapagos

Students from  Alejandro Alvear School from San Cristobal observing a green sea turtle in “La Lobería”

Between October and December 2018, more than 1000 students from Santa Cruz, Isabela and San Cristobal Islands have participated in the "Marine Mornings" initiative of the Charles Darwin Research Station, one of the components of our Marine Education Project that takes place in Galapagos with the participation of the different schools. The students, together with their teachers, make observation field trips with our team to learn more about the marine ecosystems of the archipelago in the field. We cannot care for what we do not know about, so the objective of this initiative is to invite the community to visit the beach more frequently to better understand the importance of protecting the oceans and their biodiversity.

Students from Jacinto Gordillo School in Isabela learning about marine ecosystems with Luis Cevallos, member of the marine education team
Students from Jacinto Gordillo School in Isabela learning about marine ecosystems with Luis Cevallos, member of the marine education team. Photo by: Daniela Vilema

The program in our Research Station in Santa Cruz Island, consists of a tour of the Van Straelen Interpretation Center and the current Marine World exhibition, where children have the opportunity to learn in depth about sharks, mangroves, marine invasive species and the impact of plastic on the oceans. Then, we head to "La Ratonera" beach where we can see different species of mangroves, invertebrates that live on the rocky shores, fish and a large number of birds such as frigates, finches and blue-footed boobies. Following the line that marks the highest tide of the beaches in this area, we have found plastics of different sizes that we collect together to clean the beach and talk about options of how we can avoid marine pollution in our daily life.

Daniela Vilema, leader of the marine education project, teaching students about the species of sharks present in Galapagos
Daniela Vilema, leader of the marine education project, teaching students about the species of sharks present in Galapagos. Photo by: Luis Cevallos

Isabela, the biggest island of the archipelago, received the designation of RAMSAR site in 2002 for its large area of wetlands. These areas harbor a large amount of life that includes fish, sea turtles, pelicans, invertebrates, marine iguanas, among others. Together with the students of the Odilo Aguilar, Jacinto Gordillo and Stella Maris local Schools, we visited the wetlands located on the way to a visiting historic site called “Wall of Tears”, where the students had to identify all land and marine species during the walk through coastal lagoons and “La Playa del Amor”, until getting to our final stop, "El Estero". In this place, we analyzed the ecological roles of the different species and the children were able to enjoy a refreshing swim surrounded by mangroves and accompanied by a sea lion that was present every day of activities. In the afternoons, we went to "Concha de Perla" with older students, where we snorkeled and we were able to observe a great amount and variety of marine life.

“Teachers have recognized the importance of the marine education activities carried out in the field, because this allows to connect their students with our surroundings. They expressed their desire to continue participating in the program the next scholar year”, said Ernesto Bustamante, CDF’s Liaison Coordinator of Isabela Island.

Students from the Stella Maris school from Isabela Island enjoying in “El Estero” after of the walk through the wetlands
Students from the Stella Maris school from Isabela Island enjoying in “El Estero” after of the walk through the wetlands. Photo by: Daniela Vilema

San Cristobal, on the other hand, has several marine environments, but we decided to take the students to "La Lobería", a visiting site to which I personally call it as a natural aquarium. This place is home to a great number of fish like yellow tail damsels, parrot fish, flag fish, sea turtles and a lot of sea lions. All the students were given a snorkel equipment and a buoy to those who had difficulty swimming.

“Teacher! There are so many fish and turtles in the water”, shouted with emotion one of the students. During the activity, we enjoyed a great visibility, we identified species and when we left the water, we could talk more about the different marine environments that can be found in the Galapagos Islands and their importance for animals and plants, as well as for people.

Students from Alejandro Alvear School identifying fish in the species guide with Francisco Galvis, member of the marine education team
Students from Alejandro Alvear School identifying fish in the species guide with Francisco Galvis, member of the marine education team. Photo by: Daniela Vilema

The experience in water snorkeling has undoubtedly been a component that besides generating emotion in the children, has helped us to see the importance of committing ourselves as a community to take care of the place where we live. Reading about a turtle eating seaweed and swimming from a story in a book is not the same as seeing it in person, as well as being able to swim with white tip sharks or swim with sea lions while doing pirouettes in the water; and in Galapagos we are lucky to live in a place that, being protected, allows us to enjoy these experiences. Soon we will be in Floreana Island to continue teaching more people about the conservation of the oceans and we hope that little by little through the students, teachers and parents that have participated we can motivate more people to join the conservation efforts of our archipelago.

Thanks to the Save Our Seas Foundation for their unconditional support on our Marine Education Project!

The “Charles Darwin Foundation for the Galapagos Islands”, in French “Fondation Charles Darwin pour les îles Galapagos”, Association International sans but lucratif (“AISBL”), has its registered office located at Drève du Pieuré 19, 1160 Brussels, and is registered under the trade registry of Brussels under the number 0409.359.103.

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