Do you know what coral is? Rock…Plant…Animal?
In 2014 I left my home in London to start a new underwater chapter in my life. My aim was to become a SCUBA instructor and discover a way to help constructively conserve the ocean. So when a teacher approached me about the possibility of introducing 3, 4 and 5-year-olds to ocean conservation at an international school in Egypt I was thrilled. I could hardly believe such an exciting possibility had arisen and so unexpectedly.
Fast forward a few weeks and I spent two days talking to over 100 kids about ocean conservation with a focus on protecting the coral and it was fantastic. I asked the kids the same question I just asked you…What is Coral? One of the 5-year-olds told me straight away ‘coral is an animal, a living thing and we shouldn’t touch it’…how did he know this? His brother had sat in my session the previous day and talked to him! His 4-year-old brother had already started to pass on the knowledge he had learnt. I saw in that instance just how important education is.
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
It was clear in the sessions that the kids already loved the ocean and the animals in it, but they had not contemplated the consequences of some of their actions and nor had their parents. Many of the kids believed coral was rock and they could break it off and take it home with them as a souvenir, or that walking across it was the same as walking across a pebbled floor. I did not need to make them fall in love with the ocean but instead, I gave them the tools and knowledge to protect it.
When I was young I used to imagine conservation as grand gestures such as cutting loose whales and setting them free for a better life (I may have watched free willy too many times as a child). However, it is often easy to overlook the power of education because education is a long-term investment and not a quick fix. These children are the next generation of policy makers, educators, scientists, engineers, architects, lawyers, chief executives…they determine the future path of their country.
So who knows what impact it will have knowing coral is a living thing…