November 9, 2020 – “We have to save Palau and clean our environment and stop polluting”, wrote 5th grader Kerkikl Ongalibang from Koror Elementary School (KES) at the end of a lecture from Palau Conservation Society (PCS) invasive species outreach presentation. As usual, students are enthusiastic and eager to share what they know and learn. KES 5th graders got a kick lesson on invasive species with a visit from PCS last week. The school tour for 5th graders, titled “Saving and Safeguarding Palau’s Terrestrial and Marine protected areas from Invasive Species”, began with elementary schools in Koror. The tour will continue throughout schools in Babeldaob and Kayangel in the remaining weeks of November and end in Iouldaob early December.
What are invasive species and how did they get to Palau? What happens to our forests, reefs and wildlife when they are invaded? What can we do about it? These questions, among others, were answered and explained to students in a short animated outreach film shown to the students during the tour. One of the species highlighted during the tour was the Crown-of-Thorns (Rrusch), a potential threat to reefs which is usually induced to an outbreak from pollution or other types of reef stressors. The Merremia Peltata vine (Kebeas) was also highlighted for its outbreak around Palau threatening to penetrate protected areas due to lack of regular maintenance after lands are cleared near protected areas. Some of the students expressed that it was their first time learning about invasive species. Although a few students were already familiar with Kebeas and Rrusch before the presentation, an overwhelming number of students agreed that everyone has a part in protecting Palau from invasive species by the end of the lecture.
Palau’s public school students at the 5th grade level enter into Ridge-to-Reef learning, which introduces local biodiversity found in Palau. Every year, PCS seeks to work with our education system to enhance the Ridge-to-Reef learning experience. Classroom visits or fieldtrips to protected areas are provided to expand students’ learning from their Ridge-to-Reef handbook in class. The outreach activities to schools are part of a larger project supported through a grant from the Office of Insular Affairs, USDOI. PCS would also like to extend its gratitude to two other organizations, Palau International Coral Reef Center and the Bureau of Agriculture, for their partnership in the success of the Invasive Species outreach lesson.