Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF) and the Cayman Islands Department of the Environment (DOE) announces the fourth year of the successful Grouper Educational Program (GEP), a marine sciences curriculum for Caymanian intermediate elementary, middle, and high school students. Launched in 2012 as part of the Grouper Moon Project, the GEP focuses on bringing Nassau Grouper in to Cayman classrooms through lesson plans and interactive live-feed video sessions that connect students with scientists in the field. Given the vital role of Nassau Grouper as an apex predator and its endangered species status, it is imperative to raise awareness about their spawning aggregations and to help build support for the value of Nassau Grouper beyond a fishery resource.
The GEP has become a successful component of education programs at 17 Caymanian schools. Additionally, we have expanded the program to several schools and educational organizations in The Bahamas and Turks and Caicos. Over 200 students participate annually in the program. To support participating teachers and provide professional development, we have held Educator Workshops on Grand Cayman and Cayman Brac in 2011 and 2015. Working closely with the Cayman Islands Department of Education, the workshops have enabled us to effectively engage public school teachers and their classrooms. These successful workshops have trained over 30 teachers in the program.
This year looks to be the most successful yet, as we continue to expand in to more classrooms while further developing the educational program on the Sister Islands. Three live and interactive video feed sessions are planned this week – two will broadcast scientists diving underwater (one on the Little Cayman Nassau Grouper Spawning Aggregation, January 28, and a second from one of Little Cayman’s world famous dive sites, January 27) and a third will broadcast scientists topside at their base of research operations on Little Cayman (January 26). All live feeds begin at 11:45am EST and last approximately 45 minutes. The hangouts can be viewed live and are archived for later viewing via the Grouper Moon Project YouTube Channel (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCjyL7RI710FVZujOh-I2udw). A complete list of schools participating in this year’s program are listed below.
The GEP 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 the conservation challenges facing Nassau Grouper given steep declines in populations. While the bulk of the lessons take place over the course of the two weeks in January and February, when REEF scientists and DOE staff are working at the spawning site, we have developed a set of pre-activities to help build background knowledge as well as follow-up lessons to help deepen the students’ learning experience. A blog is also maintained to provide timely updates, images and videos, and provide a platform for discussion (http://groupereducation.edublogs.org).
The curriculum was developed to complement the research and scientific efforts of the Grouper Moon Project (www.REEF.org/groupermoonproject). 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.
The primary objective of the Grouper Moon Project is to evaluate the importance of Nassau Grouper spawning aggregations to local fisheries and coral reef ecosystems. Little Cayman is home to one of the last known, and largest, Nassau Grouper spawning aggregation. For ten days following winter full moons, thousands of large grouper meet at known reef sites for short periods of time (days to weeks) and release their gametes in massive spawning bursts. Since 2002, REEF and DOE have coordinated the Grouper Moon Project. The project has grown in scope to include an ambitious acoustic tagging research project, juvenile habitat and genetics studies, and oceanographic connectivity research.
The education program of the Grouper Moon Project is supported by a grant from the Disney Conservation Fund. Generous logistical support is provided by Little Cayman Beach Resort, Reef Divers, Southern Cross Club, and Peter Hillenbrand. FLOW Cayman sponsors the 4G connectivity to make the live-feeds possible.
Schools participating in the 2016 program are:
Cayman Prep Junior School
Cayman Prep High School
John Gray High School
John A. Cumber Primary School
East End Primary
Clifton Hunter High School
First Baptist Christian School
St. Ignatius Catholic School
Edna M. Moyle Primary School
Cayman Islands Further Education Centre
CAYMAN BRAC and LITTLE CAYMAN
Layman E Scott Senior High School
Spot Bay Primary School
West End Primary
Little Cayman School
TURKS and CAICOS
Enid Capron Primary School
Marjorie Basden High School in South Caicos
Thornton Creek Elementary, Seattle, WA
The Center School, Seattle, WA
San Diego Cooperative Charter School, San Diego, CA