Students participating in the ‘Temperature, Salinity & Oxygen lake profiling’ using a YSI handheld instrument in Jellyfish Lake during the ‘Back to Nature - Jellyfish Lake’ outdoor education program run by Coral Reef Research Foundation, which reached all 6th and 8th grade students in Palau during the previous school year.

Coral Reef Research Foundation (CRRF) successfully carried out the ‘Back to Nature- Jellyfish Lake’ program for all of Palau’s 6th and 8th grade students during the past school year, despite a late start last year due to Covid-19.  With funding from GEF Small Grants Programme and New Zealand North Pacific Development Fund, CRRF designed an outdoor educational experience focusing on Jellyfish Lake, based on 20 years of experience in data collection and monitoring of the marine lakes in Palau. CRRF undertook this effort to give back to the larger community and pass on the proven methods and accumulated knowledge to Palau’s younger generation.  The underlying theme of this program was to increase knowledge and promote a sense of local ownership of the iconic Jellyfish Lake among Palau’s youth. The program reached every elementary school in Palau, from Kayangel to Hatohobei; overall 611 students and 85 teachers went through the program. While the program targeted 6th and 8th graders, CRRF was also able include additional grade levels, including high schools, and NGO organizations such as Ebiil Society and Heirs to Our Oceans. The CRRF outdoor education experience is run by marine lakes researchers Gerda Ucharm, Kaylee Giramur and Sharon Patris, with assistance from Amber Skiwo and Carlos Manuel.

‘Back to Nature’ is a three day program. The first day provides background information on Palau’s marine lakes, with a focus on Jellyfish Lake. The second day is a field trip to Jellyfish Lake, where the students learn the life cycle of the Golden jellyfish before hiking into the lake. Once at the lake, the students are divided into 4 groups and assigned to different stations: 1) Temperature, Salinity and Oxygen (TSO) water profiling, 2) Pink Bacteria layer,  3) Zooplankton and Microscope Use, and 4) Scavenger Hunt for marine organisms. The students spend 45 minutes at each station using scientific instruments to gather data, followed by rotations to the next stations. The final day finds the students back in the classroom where students are taught to analyze the data they collected, and then present their data to classmates.  Throughout the program, students are encouraged to express themselves through writing essays based on their experience in Jellyfish Lake. Students with the best essays from each school won a free, fun day at Jellyfish Lake as the prize.

To prepare teachers to conduct this type of class in the future, CRRF held a second training just for teachers in July 2021. This covered the ‘Back to Nature’ program activities and included additional lessons in marine invertebrate identification and microscope use.  Detailed lesson plans were provided to help guide teachers for future classes, and CRRF will also provide equipment and supplies to all teachers who adopt the program into their class.

In July 2021, CRRF also participated in the Ministry of Education’s 27th Education Convention to raise awareness of the ‘Back to Nature’ program among educators in Palau. At the Convention, CRRF presented the program to private and public schools teachers, as well as Head Start and Special Education teachers. Three students with winning essays talked about their experiences and presented their essays during the session.

The program and students are featured at https://coralreefpalau.org/education/ and in a short, descriptive video showing students in action learning at Jellyfish Lake:  https://youtu.be/4fcSBz0zhWM.  CRRF’s hopes the program continues as a regular part of the Ministry of Education curriculum, so that all Palauan students can experience and learn at the Jellyfish Lake natural learning classroom.  The program will allow students to study and learn about the unique environment of this world-famous lake and the impact of climate change and tourism in Palau.  CRRF is very grateful to the Palau Ministry of Education, as well as the GEF Small Grants Programme and New Zealand North Pacific Development Fund, for sharing our vision of outdoor education for Palauan youth.

More program information and pictures can be seen on CRRF’s Facebook page.   Coral Reef Research Foundation studies all aspects of the marine environment in Palau and conducts outreach activities to raise awareness and instill pride in students of their natural marine resources and environment.  For more information please contact CRRF at 488-5255, or stop by our lab on Malakal, home of the jellyfish wall.

PHOTO CAPTION:  Students participating in the ‘Temperature, Salinity & Oxygen lake profiling’ using a YSI handheld instrument in Jellyfish Lake during the ‘Back to Nature – Jellyfish Lake’ outdoor education program run by Coral Reef Research Foundation, which reached all 6th and 8th grade students in Palau during the previous school year.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *