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IYOR – Trinidad & Tobago – Summer Camp Fun for the International Year of the Reef



In July and August, children have opportunities to learn outside the schools. Dr Anjani Ganase looks at a couple camps that integrated coral reef exploration in their activity.


In the International Year of the Reef (IYOR) 2018, the Trinidad and Tobago Initiative (IYORTT) has one major aim – to engage and build awareness of coral reefs among children; where better than at fun camps in the long school vacation.

IYORTT team members have been visiting summer camps in Trinidad and Tobago to talk about the value of our coastal ecosystems and coral reefs, instilling a sense of stewardship and inspiration in the next generation. Our lessons in marine ecology were well received and nicely integrated into the current camp themes.

Here are some highlights:

Sea, Sun and Science with Buccoo Reef Trust Tobago

Sea, Sun and Science campers peek at shallow coral reefs of Tobago on the glass bottom boat tours. Photo by Jahson Alemu

Since 2002, the Buccoo Reef Trust has been hosting the programme ‘Sea, Sun and Science’ (SSS) where budding scientists and explorers get the opportunity to learn about the diverse marine ecosystems of Tobago; mangroves, coral reefs, beaches – and their importance to the island. To develop awareness of marine taxonomy and coral reef and mangrove ecology, campers were shown how these ecosystems function; how we benefit from them; and also how humans impact Tobago’s marine ecosystems.

Over the past month, members of the IYORTT team and SpeSeas (an NGO focussed on marine conservation and education) participated in the camp activities to teach the basics of marine ecology and to showcase the modern tools used by marine scientists – SCUBA diving and GIS (Geographic Information Systems) tools. Campers were taken on snorkelling trips to observe and identify the different marine organisms; they patrolled beaches for nesting and hatching turtles and participated in a glass bottom boat tour while hearing about Buccoo reef and its history. At the end of the two weeks, the campers leave with a better understanding of Tobago’s marine environment. The Sea, Sun and Science Camp have another session from August 13 – 17. Connect with Buccoo Reef Trust’s webpage for registry information.

Wind and Waves and Radical Kids with Radical Sports Tobago

Even an adult would be excited about this camp. Brett Kenny’s high-octane zeal is so infectious! This is the ultimate water sport camp that allows children to connect with Tobago’s marine environment and appreciate how fundamental this is to island life. Brett hopes to dispel any fear we have with water and the marine world by providing the means to enjoy the water.

Radical kids camp. Photo by Radical Sports Tobago

Campers learn wind surfing, wake boarding, kayaking and stand-up paddling at the tip of Pigeon Point, just adjacent to the sheltered waters of the Bon Accord Lagoon. The sea here is calm enough for balancing on the water; but the windward expanse of the shallow reef flat off Buccoo Reef allows enough wind for adventurous kite surfing while still being safe. All this is brought to you by the Buccoo Coral Reef, whose structure has been built up over hundreds of years, and without which this bay would be like every other on the island.

The IYORTT team visited the camp to introduce the children to the marine life responsible for the Buccoo Reef, the coral. Campers were taught to identify a coral by building edible coral polyps (which they subsequently ate), and did virtual underwater dives on Caribbean coral reef with virtual reality headsets. IYORTT scientist, Jahson Alemu, was inspired by the contagious enthusiasm and their receptiveness to the wonders of the marine world just beneath the waves. Radical Sports is hosting two more camps: August 20 – 24 and August 27 – 31. Connect with Radical Sports Tobago on Facebook for more information.

Art with Corals from Aunty Jaime

Art Camp with Aunty Jaime, campers learn about the coral reefs with marine biologist, Dr Anjani Ganase. Photo by Jaime Lee Loy

What do coral reefs have to do with art? Turns out, a lot! Corals and the organisms that live on the reef have evolved colours, patterns and movement to build artful forms of communication. Every summer, Jaime Lee Loy invites professionals in different fields to share activities in sciences, craft or fitness, which she integrates with art for her happy campers. When IYORTT visited, campers were taught what corals are, where they live and the importance of corals for providing homes for other marine animals. The young artists then moulded coral shapes, colour and patterns to sculpt corals and other reef forms.

Summer Heroes in Tobago

Jaime will be running a separate art camp in Tobago, known as Summer Heroes (Super Me!) in partnership with the Yahweh Foundation, a local NGO that works for youth engagement and development. Summer Heroes has been operating since 2012, where the aim of the camp is to empower children through art and art therapy, drawing inspiration from their surroundings and culture to yield inner superhero qualities. This year the project will be run with children from the Buccoo community, Tobago. The IYORTT team will be visiting and discussing our important connections with coral reefs and the marine world. The camp will be held from August 27 – 30.