top of page

Our coastal lagoons are  irreplaceable. Let’s save them.

Vision

To bring a deep understanding of the of true value of this dynamic ecosystem and our interdependence on it.

Our Mission

Introducing students, teachers, parents and their communities to the wonderful world of the tropical lagoon coastline through a curriculum-based, hands-on science program.

Linking exciting and fun-filled ecological exploration with a deep understanding of the importance and intricacies of this wonderful ecosystem throughout the Caribbean and world-wide.

 

The Coastal Lagoon ecosystem comprises three uniquely interdependent ecosystems - mangroves, seagrass and coral reefs. While each individual system is specifically biodiverse they are all interrelated, sharing and depending on a series of unique forms of flora and fauna. The education program emphasises this connectivity.

Meet the Team

Dedication. Expertise. Passion.

Welcome to the Coastal Lagoon Education Team!

Cass mangrove selfie.jpg

Education Manager

Cassandra MacDowell

Cassie is a young environmentalist from Cayman Brac who has a passion for education and environmental conservation. Cass gained a unique appreciation for wildlife and flora at a very young age. During and after high school, she volunteered extensively with various environmental groups and nonprofits in the Cayman Islands such as the Department of Environment, The Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation, and Plastic Free Cayman. She gained educational experience during an internship with the Central Caribbean Marine Institute which led her to a Field Warden position at the Blue Iguana Conservation Program with the National Trust on Grand Cayman.

 

Cass has spent many hours volunteering with the Mangrove Rangers and is now the Education Manager for the Mangrove Action Project.

Coastal Lagoon Education Project - History

Environmental education as we know it has been around a long time – at least in one form or another. It probably began as the industrial age entered its third century and urban dwelling became the norm and country living an exception. For the city dweller the countryside was something to be feared rather than loved and enjoyed.

            It is symbolized, in a way, by the Boy Scout movement which was started in the UK at the beginning of the 20th Century by Lord Baden Powell. The scouts were also a way of providing a healthy background for young urbanites who learned about their environment as well preparing them for military service. At the same time, in the USA, President Theodore Roosevelt created the National Park System. The Canadian Parks Service was started at the same time.

            In the early days of their existence the field naturalists were primarily dedicated groups of naturalists which studied the parks’ ecosystems. They explained to those who visited the parks how these ecosystems functioned.  It wasn’t until the 1960s that professional educators began to be part of the parks system in North America. Mostly, they began as naturalists in the parks but gradually assumed the role of teachers for those who came to do more than just explore.

            The Environmental Movement to protect the Earth’s natural resources also began in the 1960s as more people began to understand and work towards the conservation of unique and irreplaceable ecosystems. These are on both land and the sea and in particular along our coastlines.

            The 1970 and 1980s saw the rapid expansion of the environmental education movement. Science-based programs were developed and implemented by a plethora of non-profit organizations from Ducks Unlimited to the World Wildlife Fund. The national organisations recognized that unless people understood the ecological value of our ecosystems, they would be hard to protect and preserve them.

            My own experience began in British Columbia in the late 80s and early 90s. A change in provincial government reviewed the school curriculum and recognized that it needed to be updated to include science and social studies materials that gave a deeper understanding of our natural environment. A variety of provincial nonprofit organizations working to protect and educate young people and their communities on the value of specific ecosystems – whether they be oceans, mountains, forests, plains, rivers or wetlands – formed a working group. Many of the most active members of these groups were professional teachers employed throughout the local education system. Over the next year they provided the information, resources, programs and teaching tools which were then incorporated into the curriculum itself.

            Environmental education had entered the mainstream of the education system – and it was here to stay.

            For me wetlands – be they freshwater, estuarine or saltwater – were (and still are!) probably the most misunderstood of all ecosystems. Perhaps good old Bill Nye summarizes them best in his 1989 video “Fabulous Wetlands”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BeUPbGWg2KU

            Moving to the tropics mangroves assume the major role in coastal wetlands habitat. In the 1990s we had established teaching guides for temperate wetlands and estuaries, and these were then adapted – using many of the same activities – to be used to teach about the importance of mangrove forests. In 2001 the Marvellous Mangroves teachers guide was developed by the Mangrove Action Project and introduced to the Cayman Islands Year 5 curriculum where it has been taught in every school since its introduction.

            Recognizing its need and the threats to mangrove habitats worldwide, the Mangrove Action Project began to adapt and translate Marvellous Mangroves for use in other countries. At the time of writing local versions are being used in 17 countries worldwide.

            At the same time marine ecology focused on the study of coral reef ecosystems has been part of several environmental education programs for many years and that has been added to the Coastal Lagoon Education Project together with the much-misunderstood Seagrass beds. These three ecosystems are interconnected and interdependent. When one is missing the other two ecosystems are badly damaged and are less effective.

            The Coastal Lagoon Ecosystem Teachers Guide and resources follow the principles of environmental education by bringing an understanding of these incredible ecosystems on which we humans depend to students, teachers and their communities.

- Martin Keeley, 

bottom of page