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Soaking Up the BVI

Soaking Up the BVI

Who says learning can’t be fun? Ask the kids participating in the educational programmes offered through Sea Trek BVI, and they’ll tell you all about the fundamentally fun activities they dived into this summer. They’ve been reeling in the good times over the summer—and who could blame them? If I could use the BVI’s national parks and inviting ocean depths as a playground—or classroom—and a stacked catamaran as a floating lunchroom, I’d take all of the summer schooling I could get. 


Over the past couple of months, Sea Trek has embarked on a new programme called FATHOMS, whose aim is to educate both international and local students alike on the wonders and bounties that the BVI’s culture and history, and land and marine life, have to offer. The new programme takes the kids around the BVI—from the depths of the Indians to the rocky hillsides of Jost Van Dyke.

FATHOMS, or Focused Adventure Through Hands On Marine Science, uses a variety of different resources to provide a unique and engaging experience for its young participants. Along with its focus wet in a marine education, Fathoms also concentrates on teaching its kids, who largely travel here from the US, about local culture and community service, “so it’s really not your average form of tourism,” said the programme’s director, Angie Cowan. “This affords our students the opportunity to learn about the BVI's marine environment and culture in an authentic, hands-on manner. By collaborating with organizations like the Jost Van Dyke Preservation Society and the Conservation and Fisheries Department and visiting the Virgin Islands National Parks, we hope to provide our students with a deeper understanding of the complex issues surrounding marine ecosystem conservation and management.”

This year, FATHOMS reached out to five students from JVD, who were able to become NAUI SCUBA certified and participate in a number of activities, from cataloguing fish and local species to learning exercises that exhibited the importance of containing invasive species in the BVI—namely lionfish and mongoose.  This year, along with their devotion to community outreach, Sea Trek called upon JVD Preservation Society’s Susan Zaluski, who helped organise lectures and activities, while attracting local involvement.

“During my [three] years [working with Sea Trek], I’ve developed a great rapport with their education director, Angie Cowan,” she said. “When she decided to run FATHOMS, we knew there was opportunity for more collaboration and deeper involvement between our groups.” And next year, she added, she has high hopes of garnering more local interest in the budding programme. “We started slow this year, largely because our students at JVD were still in classes during the first voyage. [But] in addition to coral monitoring, we also sent two of our youth to participate in turtle tagging with SeaTrek's FATHOMS programme.” To cap off their services on JVD, students also created a short field guide—a map of sorts—to the flora and fauna of the Bubbly Pool area on the island’s northeast side.

For the kids, the experience was one-of-a-kind—and one that will stick with them for years to come. “It was a great experience to make a special connection to the BVI—to go beyond being a tourist,” said Fathoms participant Maya Aurichio, from Evanston, Illionois. “It was really cool to learn from the BVI students and community members and [to] get to know them better.” Emily Walker, who traveled from Lexington Massachusetts to join the group, said she especially enjoyed the unique learning experience. “It was really interesting to first learn about something, and then actually go there and learn about it by seeing it for yourself,” she said. “It makes it so that it will stick in your brain so much better.”



For Angie, the teacher and facilitator, the experience was less about her and more about the rewarding work—and the students. “[The kids] reminded me how fortunate I am to be an educator,” she said. “It’s a privilege to work with such caring and motivated young people—who will likely be the future scientists, conservationists, and environmental managers who will continue this important work. … I hope they know just how much I learned from them.”

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