On December 3rd and 5th, Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF) and the Cayman Islands Department of the Environment (DOE) held free educator workshops on Grand Cayman and Cayman Brac. The professional development workshops presented the Grouper Education Program, a marine sciences curriculum for intermediate/elementary (Year 4 & 5) and high school (Year 12 & 13) students. Nineteen teachers from 12 schools participated, including 2 schools from the Bahamas. Participants received the materials and resources necessary for successfully implementing the Grouper Education Program in their classrooms. This exciting project focuses on bringing the Nassau Grouper into elementary and high school classrooms through lesson plans and interactive live-feed video sessions that connect classrooms with scientists in the field.
Mr. Bradley Johnson, from Cayman Islands Department of Environment, presenting information to educators during the Grouper Education Workshop on Cayman Brac.
The curriculum presents a multi-faceted view of Nassau Grouper, in which students create their own understanding of this important fish. Key curricular concepts include the historical role of the species as an artisanal fishery throughout the Caribbean region, the grouper’s value as a keystone predator and its impact on local reef health, its role in today’s tourism-based economy in the Cayman Islands and throughout the Caribbean, and the conservation challenges facing Nassau Grouper given steep declines in populations.
In addition to classroom lessons, the program includes live-feed video sessions that take place at the Grouper Moon Project research site on Little Cayman, bringing real-world field science into the classroom. These video discussions are supplemented with footage of solitary Nassau Grouper on their home reef, and the 4,000+ mass aggregation of Nassau Grouper that gather on the west end of Little Cayman during winter full moons. While the bulk of the lessons take place over the course of the two weeks in January and February, when REEF and DOE scientists are working at the spawning site, the curriculum includes a set of pre-activities to help build background knowledge as well as follow-up lessons to help deepen the students’ learning experience.
The curriculum was developed to complement the research and scientific efforts of the Grouper Moon Project. Grouper Moon educator, Todd Bohannon, along with Grouper Moon scientists Brice Semmens, Ph.D. (Scripps Institution of Oceanography), Christy Pattengill-Semmens, Ph.D. (REEF), and Mr. Bradley Johnson (DOE), have led the educational effort. Activities were developed in consultation with teachers at Cayman Prep on Grand Cayman, Verity Redrup and Brenda Bryce, and Cynthia Shaw, author of the youth fictional book, Grouper Moon.
During the hands-on workshop, educators were provided copies of the Grouper Education Project curriculum and associated teaching materials. They also learned:
- How to effectively implement the Grouper Education Program in elementary and high school classrooms.
- Working knowledge of key historical, scientific, and conservation concepts about Nassau Grouper.
- Technical training in utilizing the GEP blog (www.groupereducation.edublogs.org), the live video-conferencing website, digital video cameras, and web camera.
The Grouper Education Program is a component of the Grouper Moon Project, and is supported by a grant from the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund. In-kind logistics and technical support for the workshops was provided by Cayman Airways, Brac Reef Beach Resort, and LIME.
Educators from 7 Grand Cayman schools and 2 schools in the Bahamas participated in the Grouper Education Program workshop sponsored by the Grouper Moon Project. A second workshop was held on Cayman Brac that was attended by educators from 3 local schools.