Koror, Palau – The weather was perfect last Friday, August 4, for the 14 principals who participated in the Principal Field Trip, an event coordinated by Palau Conservation Society (PCS) and Friends of the Palau National Marine Sanctuary in support of the Palau Legacy Project.  

[restrict] The Palau Legacy Project’s aim is to create awareness among tourists regarding behaviors that will protect Palau’s pristine environment by taking the “Palau Pledge”. In addition, the Legacy Project will remind local residents of their responsibility to protect Palau through various local launch activities.

The educators left the dock on the Abigail, a boat owned by Chico Nakamura, which usually functions as a tour vessel. Their first stop was the Ngederrak Conservation Area which Ms. Dora Benhart, Outreach & Awareness Officer from the Dept. of Conservation of Koror State explained its rules and regulations.  The group wanted to visit a Fish Aggregation Device but could not reach the nearest one because of rough seas.  The trip detoured to Ngchelobel Island where Mr. Yalap P. Yalap gave a short history of how Palau’s  leadership in the 1970’s decided Palau’s political status, away from the Federated States of Micronesia and became an independent country.  It was because of Palau’s high biological diversity and also with the Rock Islands as natural theme park in comparison with the rest of the Micronesian islands.  With the Rock Islands, Palau has more potential to attract high number of tourists thus generating more revenue.  Palau is realizing this fact now and it is the responsibility of the present Palauans to work together to ensure that tourists, as guests, enjoy and protect the environment and leave with good experiences.  Mr. Francis Toribiong, PCS Board Member, talked about the history of how the clams in Ngchelobel first get there and became a popular tourist site and also some key cultural sites.  They also heard from Ms. Lukes Isechal, Chief Scientist at the Ministry of Natural Resource, Environment & Tourism.  She was able to point out some of the impacts that increased human activity has had on this treasured site. Ms. Isechal gave a talk about Palau’s marine science ecosystems and a little bit of her background history, as an encouragement for the principals to nurture more students to become more interested to various fields of science.  At Clam City, principals had the chance to put on their snorkel gear and witnessed Palau’s unique underwater.

During the Principals zero-plastics, potluck lunch, the educators heard from Ms. Nanae Singeo and Ms. Jennifer K. Gibbons more details plans for the Palau Legacy Project local launch, science teacher field trips, science fair integration, interactive curriculum, service learning, and Palau Pledge Week and more, among the activities planned thus far.  The group played ice-breaker games conducted by Mr. Dillon Meriang, PCS Summer Univeristy Intern, and moved on to visit the popular Cemetery Snorkeling Site for tourist within the Southern Lagoon.  Mr. Francis Toribiong also gave the history of how the name evolved and got stuck.

One of the biggest take home messages of the day was the focus on career development and job opportunities related to tourism, science, surveillance and enforcement, and of course, conservation. The Legacy Team’s hope is that principals will bring this new awareness to the teachers, students, and parents that they serve.

The objective of the day was for the educators to hear from a local scientist, conservation practitioner, and local youth leader regarding perspectives on protecting the environment and suggest ways that they might introduce concepts into school curriculum to develop the next generation of stewards.

It was long a day and everyone was a few shades darker from being out on the ocean. All involved agreed that the event was a success and definitely one that should be repeated. Special thanks to Koror State, Chico Nakamura, Chief Mechol of MOE, Lukes Isechal, Jerry Nabeyama and Francis Toribiong.

For more information about The Legacy Project, contact Yalap P Yalap at 488-3993 or yyalap@palauconservation.org. [/restrict]