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Marvelous Mangroves

Originally appears in the Spring 2011 issue

In the late 1980s The Friends of Boundary Bay was formed in the Fraser River delta of British Columbia and northern Washington State. As the executive director of the group, my responsibility was not only to advocate for the protection of this vital wetland area, but to also find ways to educate the public on the importance of wetlands. Initially, our education programs involved naturalist-interpreters leading explorations of the Boundary Bay ecosystem. However, after a year it became clear that we needed to do much more to raise public knowledge about wetlands.

In 1991, seventeen American and Canadian teachers from the delta were recruited to pool their knowledge, use existing resources and data, and work on a teachers’ resource guide. Two years’ later, the 300-page teachers’ guide Discover Boundary Bay was published, pilot projects were carried out, and a naturalist/interpreter began leading school programs around the Bay.

Building on these two resources we established the Travelling Wetlands Roadshow which travelled to schools throughout British Columbia and northern Washington State. It included a 24 foot Mobile Ecology Centre and laboratory, hands-on science activities and field explorations with a naturalist-interpreter.  It also included follow-up classroom activities, microscopic analysis of water and eco-theatre for younger students.

After a couple of years and a major evaluation, the Roadshow added a supplement to the initial teachers’ guide entitled Exploring Estuaries and Wondrous Wetlands.  This teacher- and student-friendly guide featured a further 160 hands-on activities, useful background information about wetlands, water quality tips and testing ideas.

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Martin A. Keeley is the Education Director for the Mangrove Action Project and the Cayman Brac Campus Director of the University College of the Cayman Islands.