BREEF Underscores Safeguarding Bahamian Biodiversity at its 2021 Virtual Eco-Schools Bahamas Coordinators Workshop.

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Deep Creek Middle Schools student displaying her surgeonfish project in their School Without Walls programme

Under the theme, Safeguarding Bahamian Biodiversity, the Bahamas Reef Environment Educational Foundation (BREEF) held its second virtual Eco-Schools Bahamas Coordinators Workshop to promote the importance of protecting biodiversity and environmental sustainability in The Bahamas. The Eco- Schools Bahamas Programme is part of Eco-Schools Global, the largest sustainable schools programme in the world, supporting student environmental leaders in over 68 countries.

During her opening remarks Casuarina McKinney-Lambert, BREEF’s Executive Director said, “To date, BREEF’s Eco-Schools Bahamas Programme has grown from seven schools in the pilot programme to 38 government and private schools including four schools that registered during theCovid-19 pandemic. Safeguarding Bahamian Biodiversity is a priority because it is essential to protecting our wellbeing and way of life in The Bahamas.”

The annual workshop was convened again this year from October 6-8th and included three expert speakers who shared their knowledge and advice about Bahamian Biodiversity. Dr. Nick Higgs, Director of Research and Innovation, Cape Eleuthera Island School kicked off the event with a comprehensive presentation on “Marine Biodiversity.” Dr. Higgs concluded his presentation by saying, “One of the best things we can do to protect biodiversity is supporting the creation of Marine Protected Areas.”

Former Eco-Schools Coordinator, Mr. Patrick Douglas (1st right) and students of C. I. Gibson Senior High School keeping our oceans clean through beach clean ups

During day two, participants learned about the significant relationship between taxonomy and conservation from Dr. Ethan Freid, Botanist at The Bahamas National and Trust Leon Levy Plant Preserve, in Governor’s Harbour Eleuthera. Dr. Freid’s presentation entitled, “Plant Diversity and the Lucayan Archipelago,” highlighted the evolution of plants, and the importance of plant biodiversity globally and in the Lucayan Archipelago in particular (The Bahamas and The Turks and Caicos Islands).

Students at Bishop Michael Eldon School promoting gardening through a seedling sale

Dr. Selima Hauber, Agricultural Education and Outreach Officer for the Centre for Training & Innovation, One Eleuthera Foundation was the final keynote speaker on day three. Dr. Hauber’s inspiring presentation, “Re-embracing heritage crops to achieve food security and improve health in a warming climate,” examined the impact that lifestyle choices, like diet, has on our health and the benefits of growing and consuming Bahamian heritage crops. “It was a pleasure to share this information with our nation’s educators, and I am grateful to BREEF for its long-standing role in education!” said Dr. Hauber.

Harbour Island Green School students enjoying healthy lunches to help achieve their Healthy Living Eco-Schools goal

Asked about what she thought of the event, Hazel Collette-Adams, Eco-Schools Bahamas’ newest coordinator from The Beacon School on Grand Bahamas said, “Excellent information-rich presentation. Awareness is the first step to ignite action to safeguard Bahamian biodiversity.”

According to Kevin Glinton, BREEF’s Education Coordinator and Eco-Schools Bahamas National Operator, “I am privileged to work with an awesome group of dedicated and inspiring educators and volunteers who continue to pursue excellence in environmental education and environmental stewardship in our children. Throughout this pandemic, they have shown their resilience and adaptability by embracing many challenges and turning them into opportunities for creativity and learning.”

BREEF has been running Eco-Schools in The Bahamas since 2009. Eco-Schools Bahamas is part of the international award programme developed in 1994 by the Foundation for Environmental Education. The Eco-Schools Bahamas programme promotes environmental stewardship by creating an awareness of local and global environmental challenges.

Through a simple, seven-step process Eco- Schools empowers children to take action for the environment by engaging them in fun, action- oriented learning, and community outreach activities. Presently, BREEF’s network consists of 38 government private schools spread over six islands of The Bahamas.