Updated: Sep 7, 2021
YOUNG PRESIDENTS BECOME CORAL SCIENTISTS
This past month, our Education Team organized an enormous 3-day action-packed edutainment event at Ocean Reef Club! Do you remember what it was like learning for the first time that the Earth is spinning or the first time you saw the ocean? That’s the feeling we wanted to bring to this event. We planned and prepared to host 70 kids aged 4 to 14 from the Young Presidents' Organization, one of our largest events of the year!
The Young President's Organization learns all about coral ecology and restoration with Coral Restoration Foundation™ ©Stephanie Siegel/Coral Restoration Foundation™
If you’ve ever worked in education, or even spent the occasional Saturday night as a nanny, you know that entertaining AND teaching 70 students is no easy feat! Our Education Team spent weeks training our interns to be well versed in our curriculum, prepping our supplies, and mentally preparing for the organized chaos that accompanies any good experiential
education lesson. Each of the three days of this event was designed differently, offering a dynamic experience!
The first day was an outdoor tabling event where people could stop by for a short conversation with members of our Coral Crew, color a cutout of a coral, and even explore our underwater Coral Nursery using our virtual goggle headset!
The following two days were more formal. Our education team converted a giant ballroom into 3 makeshift classrooms themed with different lesson plans: Restoration, Science and Conservation. When students arrived, they chose their favorite classroom and rotated through all three throughout the day!
One of the Coral Crew at this event, Communications Program Intern Tessa Markham said,
“The first day with 70 kids was a challenge. We wanted to make sure that they learned as much as they could, but also understood that kids have quick attention spans. I was running the Appetizing Acropora table, where we build coral polyps out of sweets. By the end it got a little crazy, a little messy, but we all had fun and the kids all learned what a polyp looks like!”
Tessa went on to say that they learned a great deal about managing large-scale education events.
"You can plan as much as you like, but things change all the time and you need to be ready to adapt to any situation."
"Helping the kids learn and making sure they have a good time doing it is the most important part of these edutainment events, and while our techniques may have been rough around the edges, we adapted, came up with a game plan, and made the event a complete success.”
The Coral Crew decided to start the final day of activities on a silly science note, so our Lead Intern Lindsey led the students in a sing along. Soon the entire room was filled with voices squealing “I am a colorful coral! I share my house with shrimp and go to school with fish!” Not long after that the squeals were replaced with “ooohs” and “aaaahs” as our team led science experiments for their enraptured audience. Turns out those quick attention spans lengthen when science and wonder are added into the mix!
Our Education Program Intern Gabrielle Rosenbacher said,
"Being able to spend multiple days with kids, each day building upon another, is a special experience when it comes to outreach and education. You really get to know many of them on a more personal level, making it easier to connect with individuals and bring inspiration to their learning experience."
A big thank you goes out to the Ocean Reef Club and the Young Presidents Organization for having us! We were honored to work for so long with the next generation of change makers!
Coral Restoration Foundation™ teaches the Young Presidents' Organization about ocean chemistry! ©Madalen Howard/Coral Restoration Foundation™
SUMMER CAMP COLLABORATION
CRF™ has been working at the REEF Summer Camp at Pennekamp State Park this month! Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF) is a local organization also working to protect our oceans. REEF is only one of the many restoration groups around the Keys and Florida with whom CRF™ collaborates with on data collection, research, and educational outreach!
REEF Environmental Education Foundation teaches students at their headquarters. ©Maddie Brownfield/REEF
In our time there, we gave a general presentation about coral reefs, their importance, what has been happening to them in the past 50 years, and what CRF™ is doing in response. Throughout the presentation, the campers were very attentive, answering questions with a surprising amount of knowledge, and asking creative questions of their own.
Claire Barr, one of our interns working this event said,
“Seeing their expressions change as they listened to us speak was unexpected and rewarding. We could watch the learning journey they underwent, and the entire time, the sparkle never left their eyes."
"At the end of the presentation, they asked innovative and new questions that I had never thought to ask. But I guess that’s kids for you. It was an amazing first presentation with CRF™.”
After the presentation, we ran two edutainment activities. The first was a game illustrating the importance of sustainable fishing, highlighting terms like bycatch, sustainability, and regulation. Our second activity focused on our CRF™ Coral Tree; using a scaled down mini tree, we showed the campers how to hang corals using monofilament line and crimps.
Throughout our time with them, the campers were engaged and happy to learn everything that we do here at CRF™. With so many budding conservationists, the world of restoration is going to start growing exponentially. We can’t wait to work with them all again!
RESOURCES FOR YOU
OUR EXPLORATION CENTER HAS REOPENED
After a long year of being closed, the doors to our Exploration Center are finally open again! Come in and discover a visually stunning way to learn about our reefs without getting wet.
Swing by the CRF Exploration Center, 5 Seagate Blvd in Key Largo, for more information about how to get involved!
Many of our interns have gone on to do amazing work in the field of marine science. You can see what some of our CRF™ Alumni are up to here.
Madalen Howard is CRF's Marketing Associate. Madalen comes to CRF™ via a winding road from the Tennessee hills, to the South Carolina low country, ending here in Florida’s Coral Reef. She earned her Bachelor's degree in Marine Biology and a Minor in Environmental Studies from the College of Charleston in 2016. Her experience ranges from field research to education, and communications.
Madalen spent the last 4 years as a Field Instructor and Social Media Strategist for MarineLab Environmental Education Center. Here she was able to study and teach marine ecology, while snorkeling through mangroves, seagrasses, and coral reefs every day. While at MarineLab she combined her education and research background, entered the world of communications, and developed MarineLab’s social media department from the ground up.
Throughout her life Madalen has had a skill connecting people with nature. With CRF™, she is excited to bring people into the world of coral restoration, creating inclusive pathways to scientific discovery.
"Heads Up" Editorial Intern
Growing up in the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, Gabrielle Rosenbacher has been passionate about wildlife conservation since she can remember. She became PADI certified at 10 years old in the Koh Pi Pi Islands in Thailand. Gabrielle received a BA in Environmental Studies - Ecology & Conservation from the University of Vermont. A semester of her studies was spent in the Turks & Caicos Islands at the School for Field Studies - Center for Marine Resource Studies, further growing her passion for marine conservation and diving. Following university, Gabrielle lived in the Canary Islands, where she received her Divemaster and PADI Instructor qualifications, as well as numerous specialty certifications. Since then, she led a non-profit marine conservation organization in Caye Caulker, Belize, as the project coordinator. Gabrielle would like to continue devoting her life to marine conservation and working with non-profit organizations.
"Coral Chronicles" Editorial Intern
Tessa Markham is a recent graduate of Skidmore College, with a BA in English and Environmental Studies. She grew up in Wilton, in southwestern Connecticut, but spent her summers growing up either hiking and camping in the woods or swimming and sailing on the water. She has always been passionate about climate change and conservation. Diving for the first time in 2014 while taking a marine conservation course in the Caribbean leeward islands, she quickly amassed dives and got her PADI Instructor certification just three years later. Just after completing her instructor training, she spent nearly a month on the Yucatan Peninsula conducting research on their reefs, looking at the ratio of soft versus stony coral death. She later channeled her distress at the degradation of the reefs to write a short story about coral bleaching, which was published in Volume 5 of the Oakland Arts Review in 2020. Her capstone thesis built on this theme and she wrote a collection of four creative short stories that detail and exemplify climate change-induced environmental damage through a narrative lens. She aims to combine her degrees and experiences to make a career in science communications, making research and conservation accessible to everybody.