We have just reached two milestones in marine education and outreach in Seychelles, the first being the successful closing of the second edition of the Blue Economy Youth Programme and the other is reaching 100 Marine Education lesson been delivered as part of WiseOceans School Marine Education Programme, so what better time for a blog!

The Blue Economy Youth Programme is an immersive five-day education programme created in partnership with the Department of Blue Economy and the Environmental Education Unit from the Ministry of Education and Human Resource Development, which was sponsored by the British High Commission Victoria, the Department of Blue Economy, the Les Laurier Eco Hotel Praslin, the Four Seasons Resort Seychelles and the Ministry of Education and Human Resources Development. The programme is designed to provide 24 young Seychellois aged 11-16 years old with the theoretical marine knowledge and practical skills that will ignite their passion for further education, raise their awareness of threats to the marine environment and aid them in obtaining future careers in the Blue Economy.

Each day of the programme consisted of a selection of marine biology, environmental science, Blue Economy and career development classes. The afternoons were dedicated to practical training, including conducting scientific and social surveys, marine identification, presentation skills and field trips. To raise awareness of the Blue economic opportunities we had numerous guest talks from key organisations working in the Seychelles marine sector.

As the Blue Economy Youth Programme ended, it is with great pride that I have been reflecting on the second edition of the programme and I really feel that this year was a complete success. The 2017 programme was a great foundation and the students enjoyed it, but this year the second edition, it really felt like the programme went to the next level, not only did the students enjoy the programme, but they also really understood the message of Blue Economy, what it is, why it is important and how everything in Seychelles is linked to the marine environment. We added new activities such as fish dissections and taught the students how to work out how the fish swim and feed which the students loved.

We also included more student-led activities, one involved the students being in role play as the government, the public and local businesses where they had to work out what the Blue Economic value of certain areas are and then how they should best manage these areas. With minimal input from the staff, the students were having discussions on such a level that they would be more fitting in an official government stakeholder setting. Showing that if you give the students the freedom to express their ideas in the right environment and structure through constructive discussions, the students can really thrive and excel.

The programme received great feedback from participants and the parents, however, it was not until I spoke to a friend here in Seychelles I understood the great importance of programmes such as the Blue Economy Youth Programme. The friend who was not previously aware that WiseOceans ran this programme and said that “my friends child participated in the Blue Economy Youth Programme and before this the student was struggling and a bit lost at school, and after the programme the student is so motivated and has their mind set on working in the marine environment. The programme really galvanised their passion for the marine world”.
The person went onto say that the student’s parent was so thankful and happy that their child participated in the programme, as it has given them a real direction for life after school. When you hear something like this, for me it is so powerful and motivating, it shows me that all the hard work, all the silly background tasks and obstacles were all for a good cause, more importantly, something that really made a difference in a young individual’s life.

Anyone who has ever spoken to me knows that the reason that I am marine biologist today, being able to share my passion, is that when I was 16-17 years old still studying and a bit lost myself, one teacher created a spark of passion for the marine world and inspired me to go on the journey to become a marine biologist and educator that I am today.

It is also with great pleasure and pride that we have reached a milestone in the School Marine Education Programme, where we delivered the 100th marine education lesson. These lessons equate 155 hours of teaching for students across 17 Seychellois primary and secondary schools. Where we have engaged with 2935 students and 356 teachers over the past year, with the most common lessons delivered so far being marine food webs and invertebrates.

The programme which is funded by the GEF Small Grants Programme and the Four Seasons Resort Seychelles and was created by WiseOceans in partnership with the Ministry of Education and Human Resource Development with the aim to spread marine education in Seychelles’ schools and also build capacity amongst teachers so that they can also teach marine lessons.

Away from the students, we have also delivered 8 teacher training sessions, focusing on giving the teachers not only the knowledge but also all the resources they need to give marine-themed lessons themselves to their students. Through the sessions we have engaged with 284 teachers including a session for trainee science teachers at the Seychelles Institute of Teacher Education as well as an “International Year of the Reef” themed teacher training session to approximately 50 international teachers from all over the world at the Trust for Sustainable Living international conference in 2018, which was delivered in cooperation with the University of Seychelles.

Through this project we have delivered over 60 hours of community engagement, from talks at the museum to attending public outreach events, it has been a great opportunity to interact and share information about the oceans.

To think back two years ago when I first started to where we are now, implementing two editions of Blue Economy Youth Programme and finishing our first year of School Marine Education Programme as well as the other smaller projects we have implemented it has been a great success so far and I look forward to seeing what we can achieve in the future.