“In the end, we will conserve only what we love, we will love only what we understand, and we will understand only what we are taught”- Baba Dioum
As we inch closer to the opening of Marine Life Park, our education team is hard at work coming up with programmes for students and teachers alike. Partnering with Sea Research Foundation and Mystic Aquarium from the United States, Kelly Matis, Vice President for Education at Mystic Aquarium came down to Singapore to help us out with the nuts and bolts of putting an exciting and inspiring curriculum together. Every year, some 1.5million students benefit from Sea Research Foundation’s education programmes worldwide such as the award-winning JASON Project, teacher training programmes, student programmes, and conservation programmes. With Sea Research Foundation’s wealth of experience and expertise, Marine Life Park hopes to inspire Singaporeans of all ages to be stewards of the environment.
Kelly tells us more about what students can expect in the coming months…
We hear that you have been in marine life education for a decade! Could you share with us how you started?
As a little girl, I was inspired by mammals in the oceans and really wanted to work with them when I grew up. I studied at University of Rochester and received a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science and a Masters in Environmental Education at Southern Connecticut State University. And 10 years ago, I started out part-timing as an interpreter at Mystic Aquarium. Today, I am the head of education there!
What are some of the exciting programmes that you are working on with Marine Life Park?
First, we want the educational programmes to be relevant to the students here. During the past month, we have gone into schools and spoke to various teachers to gather their input and opinions on what programmes Marine Life Park should focus on. The main thing is that we want to adapt Mystic Aquarium’s curriculum to programmes that work here in Singapore.
It was an interesting trip as I got the chance to see what lessons are like in Singapore schools. And after discussions, we narrowed our ideas down to these 3 initial programmes
- Horseshoe Crab Programme
- Shark Programme
- Coral Reef Programme
Why were these three chosen?
These initial programmes were highlighted by Singapore teachers themselves as they strike a chord with the local environmental scene. Most importantly, these three programmes have a strong conversation message.
- Horseshoe Crabs
There are four species of horseshoe crabs in the world, and 2 of them can be found in Singapore, namely the mangrove and coastal species. Sadly, the coastal species is endangered, and through our education programme, we hope to educate and inspire students and teachers on the importance of these animals and how to conserve them in the environment.
As for the shark curriculum, the teachers we spoke to felt this was a very relevant topic that students needed to see from all aspects to better learn on how they can do their part to help restore the shark population back to healthy numbers.
- Coral Reefs
Corals Reefs are sometimes referred to as the “Rainforest of the Sea” and home to many marine creatures. It is vital that students learn about them and how they play their part to support marine life communities in the oceans.
Will students get a chance to do an overseas trip to the United States where Mystic Aquarium is located?
This is a possibility that can be worked out with students from local schools and the Marine Life Park for student and teacher attachment programmes. Mystic Aquarium is located in Connecticut and bordered by the states of Rhode Island and New York – all home to Ivy League schools! Students interested in aquatic sciences could visit Mystic Aquarium and potentially access researchers at these prestigious universities.