Nature and Environment Education - SNORKEL PROGRAM
In 1995 the Bonaire National Marine Park inaugurated a snorkel program, called ‘Turtuganan di Boneiru’ (Sea Turtles of Bonaire), for Bonaire’s school children. In 2000, when the island school system introduced its “Skol di Bario” after-school program, the BNMP offered the Turtuganan program to those children. More than 100 children participate in Turtuganan programs every year.
The Turtuganan program introduces children aged ten to thirteen to the sport of snorkeling. In theory sessions, the kids learn about what they are going to see and how to find it. During the practical sessions they get into the water and practice what they learned about. The intention of offering these experiences is to help the children develop a lifelong love for the sea, and a deep understanding of why it needs to be protected.
The program is five weeks long and consists of one theory session and one practical session each week. Volunteers with expertise in the topic areas teach the theory sessions. In the field, the Education Coordinator is assisted by Marine Park Rangers with the supervision and guidance of the children. Snorkel gear is provided by the BNMP, and each child gets to keep plastic cards with photo identifications of Bonaire’s most common fish species and most common corals, the “Turtuganan di Boneiru” workbook, and other materials.
The Turtuganan program follows this schedule:
- Week one: Introduction to the Bonaire National Marine Park and explanation of the snorkeling program. The Ranger from Sea Turtle Conservation Bonaire (STCB), the foundation created to study and protect Bonaire’s marine turtles, leads this session using the TURTUGA (sea turtle) Educational Box to introduce the children to the fantastic creatures the for which the program is named. He also explains what STCB does: working to protect and track the sea turtles visiting or living on our reefs, and informing the public about sea turtles.
Like sea turtles, the Turtuganan love the sea and are charismatic and charming.
In the first snorkel session, there is a swimming evaluation and children learn how to use the snorkel equipment.
- Week two: The children learn about the fishes living on our reefs, through the REEF FISH Educational Box. The teacher uses the Teacher’s Guide, research, personal experiences, etc., and also gives assignments from the “Turtuganan di Boneiru” workbook.
During the snorkel session the children see in action what they learned about reef fish. The children can identify the fish they see with the plastic fish identification card.
- Week three: The teacher and children discuss what corals are and how they live, using the CORALS Educational Box and the workbook.
During the snorkel trip, the children see the corals they learned about. They can use the plastic card with the pictures of the most common corals and their names as a reference.
- Week four: The eco-systems of Lac Bay. We explain the roles of the mangroves and why there are conchs in the bay. We use the KARKO (conch) Educational Box, the teacher’s guide, and the workbook.
On the water day, the children visit the Mangrove Kayak & Info Center at Cai, and go kayaking. They see the fragile ecosystem of Lac firsthand.
- Week five: We finish the final week of the snorkel program with a boat trip and snorkel in the waters off Klein Bonaire, and a ceremony is held in which award certificates are presented to the children.