|Kids for conservation|
Guardian Lifestyles Reporter
Published: Jul 04, 2012
Summer — it’s all about time away from the classroom and long, lazy days, but for 30 youngsters, at least a week of their school break will be spent exploring the country’s natural marine and wildlife and discovering ways to preserve the unique local environment. The students are participating in the Con”Zoo”Con “Zoo” vation Summer Camp at the Ardastra Gardens and Zoo.
The Con “Zoo” vation Summer Camp is being funded by Bahamas Reef and Environmental Education Foundation (BREEF). It is supported by the Nature Conservancy. It is an annual conservation program that teaches students about their environment particularly marine life and how they can preserve the oceans.
Because the fun and informative camp is only a week-long, camper Eric Boeuf, 11, does not want to miss a day or any of the events.
“I am learning so much from the program that I can use when I go home — like although some animals may seem scary or threatening, they don’t have to be killed,” he said. “We can save these rare species by calling places like the Ardastra Gardens and the Humane Society to get the animal and put it somewhere safe and out of the way. I also learned that lots of animals are endangered like crawfish and grouper, and there is a lot we can do to save them like not overfishing our waters.”
The former sixth grade Meridian School at Unicorn Village student said although he has aspirations of being a mechanic one day, he said participating in the camp is enlightening. Boeuf may never be a strong environmental activist or study animals scientifically, but he said he is glad he knows the small things that he can do to contribute to the preservation of natural life in his environment.
And nine-year-old Sierra Ferguson is learning that taking care of the environment around her can be a fun and an effortless experience. The former fifth grade student at Xavier’s Lower School said she has learnt a lot in the first two days of the camp.
“The camp is a lot of fun. We are not only learning something new but also how much fun exploring the environment can be. We went to swim at Goodman’s Bay and we also learnt to snorkel as well,” she said. “This let us see the other fish and sea animals out there up close. It was a lot of fun. We are learning how to take care of the ocean and the land so that the animals and plant life we see will be there for years to come.”
The youngster said even after the program ends she will use what she learnt to protect animals. And that she will take care of her habitat so it is conducive for other essential wildlife to live comfortably. Ferguson said she realizes the earth is precious and invaluable, and that even though she is young, she said she sees that she can still play a role in protecting it in small ways.
Words like conserve and replenish had no meaning really for nine-year-old Kiran Halkitis. And animals that were dying out happened in every other place but The Bahamas. But all of this changed for the former fifth grade student during the Con “Zoo” vation Summer Camp. After only two days, he said he had already learned that animals are endangered worldwide, including The Bahamas, and that there is a lot people can do — even young people like himself.
“I don’t have to be older to care about the environment. I can do a lot now,” said Halkitis. “Being in the camp has been really great and taught me a lot about my habitat and taking care of what we have now rather than later. What I really like too about the camp is that although we are learning so much we are having a lot of fun at the same time. I hope other kids can participate in a program like this because we all need to know about our animals and environment.”
Despite the one-week camp, Nature Conservancy representative, Ancilleno Davis, said students will learn about a number of topics and learn in-depth what their roles should be in preserving the world around them. He said it is never too early to get children involved in their own planet and give them responsibility for saving what should be precious to them.
“We do many things at the Conservancy as well as with BREEF to reach out to people and teach them about preserving their environment. So it’s really special to be able to partner with BREEF and the Ardastra Gardens to reach students and get the idea of conserving the environment in their minds early. If they know what is right from wrong about keeping the environment safe they can tell others like parents or people they meet who are doing something wrong what they need to do to be doing good.”
To get students active and involved in their own learning, a typical day at the camp has the students discuss what they learned from the day before and what they can now do to help their environment. A power-point display on a new aspect of conservation like the purpose of habitat, roles in an environment, symbiotic, dependent or independent relationships in nature and the types of pollution and its effects on the environment is presented to them. After a lunch break they are taken on different field trips to explore their environment like at Goodman’s Bay or the Bonefish Ponds off Cowpen Road, where they viewed natural plant life and marine life like fish, conch, eels and stingrays.
And at the zoo, it was there that they encountered indigenous land animals like a Bahamian boa constrictor, Caribbean flamingo, white crown pigeon, Bahama parrot, Bahamian curly tail lizard and the white cheek pintail duck.