Sending off Flipper with Cayman International School

This month, the second graders at CIS had a special opportunity to learn about a flippered ocean friend and send him off to sea. Thank you to Amanda Brown, teacher at CIS who led this initiative, for telling us about this amazing learning experience and sharing some of your students’ quotes as well! 

“It felt really good to release Flipper, but the bad news is there’s a lot of threats coming up for Flipper like plastic bags in the ocean that he might think are jellyfish.” -Nathan Hane, Grade 2

In grade two at CIS, we do a project based learning unit on the ocean. It is our goal for the students to understand in concrete ways that the ocean is the lifeblood of Earth — and life itself. In Cayman, the threats to our ocean are compounded. We see the real impacts of these threats, but also the potential impacts that we can make through the choices we make every day. Throughout this project, students take on the role of environmentalists and learn about the ocean, marine life, ocean issues, and the potential of their impacts and the choices that they make everyday. 

Historically, sea turtles in the Cayman Islands were hunted for their shells and meat. Sea turtles are now protected in the Cayman Islands under the National Conservation Law. Their numbers are increasing, however, the green sea turtle is still listed as an endangered species due to the many threats that they are facing. The juvenile green sea turtle that the second graders released was a captive-bred juvenile green sea turtle through a program called Headstarting. The program has a rigorous quarantine and release protocol for release of sea turtles into the wild, with a 90-day veterinary protocol before being released. Because of this, the students didn’t have any interaction with their sea turtle prior to the day that it was released, aside from what they had learned about sea turtles and their knowledge of ocean issues. The headstarting program is designed to improve a sea turtle’s chances of surviving into adulthood by eliminating many of the threats that young sea turtles face. Sadly, the students learned that the biggest threat their sea turtle ‘Flipper’ will face at sea is our plastic pollution. 

Throughout the PBL, students had the opportunity to learn and interact with marine biologists and researches at the Central Caribbean Marine Institute and Guy and Jessica Harvey from the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation. They ‘adopted’ and tagged a Caribbean reef shark that they named ‘Finley’ through Shark Conservation Cayman and the Cayman Islands Department of Environment. The children went snorkeling to explore Cayman’s reefs and see evidence of coral bleaching and interact with many of the sea creatures that they learned about. After learning about sea turtles and the threats that they face through a partnership with the Cayman Islands Department of Environment and the Cayman Turtle Center, the students were able to release their adopted sea turtle ‘Flipper!’ 

“It felt nice because it was Flipper’s first time in the ocean and he really loved it there. It was fun to see Flipper have fun in the ocean for the first time!” – Jenna Parker, Grade 2

Grateful our young leaders can have such a fantastic way to learn about and care for the ocean. A huge thanks again to Amanda (and Nathan and Jenna) for sharing the story with us! 

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