CIS students work to protect starfish

| 27/06/2016
CNS Local Life

The students hold the signs they created that are to be placed around the island

(CNS): A group of Cayman International School grade seven students has devoted their time, energy and resources into educating the public on how to handle starfish properly. The students, known as the Starfish Protection Squad, took special interest in the Red Cushion Sea Star in their “Ecology and the Environment” science unit.

While they explored the biology of the starfish, their habitat and behaviour, the students studied the ways in which tourism has affected the sea star over the years. The students’ science teacher, Mariska De Klerk, is passionate about the conservation of starfish and said she was thrilled when her students showed interest in it as well. She saw it as a project-based learning opportunity.

The class was tasked with figuring out ways to communicate the basic principles of handling starfish to the public. It started with a field trip to Starfish Point to observe the starfish in their habitat and how people interacted with them.

They had concerns about the current information signs, noting they were not visible enough and did not communicate the effects of lifting starfish out of the water and exposing them to air.

The students came up with three ways to share this information better with the public: write letters to the Stingray City and Starfish Point tour companies to ask for guides to pass on responsible techniques of handling starfish; design signs that communicate the most important concepts of starfish handling in a clear and concise manner; and create a short film to communicate the essential information to the public.

The students’ message is that by lifting starfish out of the water, even for a few seconds, irreversible damage to their tissue can occur. It is also detrimental to a starfish if touched by someone with sunscreen on his or her hands.

CNS Local Life

Mariska De Klerk explains the anatomy of the starfish to her students

Through their solutions, the students want the public to know that they can still take photos with the starfish. The students held bake sales and a raffle to raise enough funds to make signs to place around the island at areas where people frequently encounter starfish.

The young people are reaching out to various landowners, asking permission to place their conservation signs near the water’s edge so that they may be visible to visitors of that area. Their short film screened during previews at the Camana Bay cinema on the release day of Finding Dory.

De Klerk said she has enjoyed this project with her students: “Grade seven has truly been an inspiration with the passion and dedication they have displayed through the course of this conservation project.

“I am extremely proud of them and join them in inviting all of Cayman to support us in our efforts to keep the Cayman Red Cushion Sea Star safe, not only for the sake of conservation, but also for the sake of tourism.”

To learn more, visit the Starfish Protection Squad’s website

Tags: , ,

Category: Marine Environment

Comments are closed.