Martin Keeley, a well-known activist, has spent most of his life trying to save the world’s precious mangroves. His award-winning work in developing and implementing mangrove educational curricula is simple; yet ambitious. The Cayman-based conservationist and educator’s work starts with one central premise: reach the younger generation who will effect change.
Back in the late 1980s, he realised that teaching guides on wetlands protection were missing in the formal education system. So, he developed a wetlands curriculum which was adopted in British Columbia, Canada and Washington D.C in the United States. This northern temperate template was adapted to the Caribbean and introduced to Year 5 students in schools in the Cayman Islands in 2001 and most recently to Year 3 students.
Since then, he has worked with teachers, non-governmental organisations and governments worldwide to successfully adapt the Marvellous Mangrove Curriculum. It takes an average of two years to do so. Teachers benefit from workshops, interactive multimedia content and field trips before the programme is implemented in their country. The Marvellous Mangrove Curriculum is also available in nine languages including Spanish, French, Portuguese and Dutch.
The programme is now implemented in at least fifteen countries: Australia, Bangladesh, Belize, Brazil, Cayman Islands, China, Colombia, French Guiana, Guatemala, Honduras, Indonesia, Mexico, Sri Lanka, Suriname and The Bahamas.
“We recently got funding to expand the Mangrove programme to include a Coastal Lagoon, Seagrass and Coral Reef Curriculum as they are all inter-related,” says Martin. The programme will also include a societal component and, the structural version should be completed by April this year.
Last year, Martin also organised young Caymanians to form the Cayman Islands Mangrove Rangers.
Martin is utilising the trained Mangrove Rangers to pilot the new curriculum in the classrooms and the field trips such as the kayak discovery tour in March.
An important component of the expanded curriculum is data collection. At the end of March, Year 12 students at the Cayman International School participated in a research project to collect baseline data on mangroves at a National Trust plot. The plan is that the same class (sometimes with different students) will conduct the same research every six months to establish a baseline.
Working with the national trusts in the Eastern and Southern Caribbean, Martin hopes to roll out the program by the end of 2021 or early 2022.
They will implement the programme that involves setting up the Mangrove Rangers, implementing the curriculum and the baseline survey with the high school students in their respective countries.
Fifty years in, Martin believes that he is witnessing a change in young people. They understand what is at stake and are taking a stand against the government, big business and the ‘strong man’ to protect their environment.
Ultimately, Martin is a realist and believes that it will take time for people to stop ‘trashing the mangroves’ for money. Money is the overriding factor.
He anticipates that if “money continues to be oblivious to the environment”, hurricanes will get stronger and last longer; sea levels will rise and destroy the mangroves, coastal lagoons and coral reefs.
He wants the Mangrove, Coastal Lagoon and Sagassum Curriculum to be part of the formal education system and tied into the Caribbean Examination Council (CXC) exam in the Caribbean.
Mangrove Education Curriculum
The Marvellous Mangrove Curriculum was developed by the Mangrove Education Project. It is a 300-page wetland/ environmental resource guide for adults and children. This award-winning curriculum is now being taught in over fifteen countries by over 2,500 teachers. The curriculum has reached over one-quarter million students worldwide.
The Marvellous Mangrove curriculum is supported by the Mangrove Action Project (MAP), based in the United States with hubs in the Caribbean, Asia and the United Kingdom. It seeks to preserve, conserve and restore the world’s mangrove forests.
Using the Marvellous Mangroves Curriculum, MAP seeks to educate young generations on the importance of mangrove forests. Teachers and educators are trained to implement the curriculum adapted within the local geographic and socio-economic context. In some countries, it is now part of the national curriculum and taught in schools.
Students learn about mangroves, their relationship with the coastal ecosystems, observe mangroves, obtain guidance on how to take scientific measurements about the health of mangroves among others.
The curriculum is now being adapted to include seagrass and coral reefs by Martin Keeley and his team. MAP invites interested persons wishing to bring the Marvelous Mangroves curriculum to their country to contact them or more information.
Teachers and students can connect via the Marvellous Mangroves Education Forum. This is an online platform that utilizes the Marvellous Mangrove Curriculum. Teachers, students and anyone interested in mangroves can learn and share their ideas across the world through this hub. It includes videos and other learning resources as well as an online discussion forum.
Marvellous Mangroves Education Forum: marvellousmangroves.org
For more articles on sustainability and social engagement in the Caribbean, read our latest issue of ApaNa Magazine.
Issue 5 provides a range of technical articles covering the environment, climate change and renewable energy, corporate giving and features nonprofit organisations including the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), Barbados Youth Business Trust, the Jamaica Social Stock Exchange, Martin Keeley (renown mangrove activist and educator who developed the Mangrove Education Curriculum) and the Cayman Islands Mangrove Rangers.
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