Students get involved to protect their beaches
Hope Town Primary School in Abaco, Bahamas has been involved in the UNESCO Sandwatch Project for over 10 years. The 60 students in this 116 year old historic, red and white school have been involved in many activities from creating brochures that teach reef etiquette on sustainable use of their famous patch reef to cutting a huge floating fishing net off their study area reef to writing a comic book for kids on what they can do to feel empowered about saving their environment.
Their very popular, small, 6 mile long island had been struck by 3 major hurricanes since 1999 and a 4th hurricane, Hurricane Irene, just blew through at 115 mph with gusts up to 140 mph on 25 August 2011.
Sandwatch Country Co-ordinator, Mrs. Candace Key, who is also the Hope Town School Principal, is proud of the fact that the area where the school has done several of their UNESCO Sandwatch projects came through the strong storm in great shape. After the last hurricanes washed out much of the beach in front of the Hope Town Harbour Lodge Resort, which is the area they use as their project site, the students were instrumental in replanting the dunes (that were pushed back up into place by beach bulldozers) with sea oats.
Throughout the last 6-8 years the sea oats have matured and covered the dune well. When Hurricane Irene struck this August the dune held very well with no erosion, to the student’s pride! The sea oats took a beating but they will be standing tall and proud again soon guarding their valuable dune.
The students also planted sea oats on the property next to the resort. That property was sold and a very large house was built. In order to extend the property, the new owner plowed sand over the sea oats. Students protested and the owner promised to plant sea oats; he planted a few and filled the rest of the area with the invasive plant known as Hawaiian Sea Grape, which does not have the deep seated roots that sea oats have. During this storm, the whole beach in front of his house washed out. A lot of valuable environmental lessons were learned during this hurricane by Sandwatchers—young and old.
Sandwatch seeks to modify the lifestyle and habits of children, youth and adults on a community-wide basis and to develop awareness of the fragile nature of the marine and coastal environment and the need to use it wisely. It is an educational process through which school students and community members learn and work together to scientifically monitor their beach environments, so as to critically evaluate the problems and conflicts, and then to develop and implement sustainable activities to address these issues.