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“Kids On The Reef” Programme Held Virtually
Bermuda Zoological Society’s Kids On The Reef [KOTR] programme — sponsored by AXA XL — was held virtually due to the Island under lockdown last spring due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
A spokesperson said, “Each Spring, for the past eight years, AXA XL has generously sponsored the Bermuda Zoological Society’s [BZS] Kids on the Reef [KOTR] programme for students from public middle schools.
“Typically, the programme is run over two days at the Bermuda Aquarium, Museum and Zoo and includes both confined water and open water freediving instruction, as well as classroom teaching. However, with the island under lockdown last spring due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the KOTR organizers worked diligently to find a way to bring the programme to Bermuda’s public school students virtually.
BZS educators were able to pivot quickly after the lockdown and utilize video lessons, Zoom classes and pre-recorded instructional videos when conducting their online spring camp. Dr. Alex Amat, BZS educator and Beth Neale, KOTR programme coordinator, used these same tactics to bring part of the KOTR programme to 8 public school classes from Dellwood, Clearwater and Sandys, which included 120 students.
With Beth located in South Africa, and Dr. Alex in Bermuda, they utilized Zoom classes to teach the students breathing techniques, free-diving theory and stretches. They also taught lectures on ocean conservation to reinforce the students’ school curriculum. For those students or schools who were unable to participate in Zoom classes, Dr. Alex and Beth teamed up to produce instructional breathing class videos, as well as video lectures on ocean conservation to provide the educational component of the course.
With the classroom portion of the KOTR programme covered on a virtual platform, the students still needed to complete the confined water and open water freediving instructional portion of the programme. In the fall of 2020, the relaxed government restrictions for Covid-19 enabled the KOTR programme coordinators to provide the in-water opportunity to 85 students from Dellwood middle school, many of whom had previously completed the class components virtually. For those students who had been unable to complete the virtual component in the spring, they were able to complete all segments of the programme on site at the Bermuda Aquarium, Museum and Zoo.
“Meeting the students online allowed us to keep in touch with them and make them feel they were part of something larger and more tangible. They knew the in-water component would happen in the future, which was an incentive” said Dr. Amat. “It would not have happened without the commitment of their science teachers who understood the need to be flexible and approached the programme with an open mind. We are really grateful to our sponsor AXA XL for believing in us to create this virtual offering and enabling us to continue sharing our ocean passion.”
With a new spring season of the AXA XL KOTR programme on the horizon, the programme coordinators are confident that no matter the circumstances, they will either virtually or physically teach this vital programme that takes these public school children outside their comfort zones, giving them the tools they need to be confident in the water, and teaching them about Bermuda’s coral reefs and the wonders of the ocean.
The shared mission of BZS and BAMZ is to inspire appreciation and care of island environments, and as the support charity for BAMZ, the BZS is an example of a highly successful non-profit/public partnership. Each year the BZS provide more than 8,000 free educational experiences through our Stempel Foundation BZS Schools Programme in addition to popular community programmes for all ages, development of BAMZ exhibits, and conservation and research programmes. Each year, BZS Volunteers contribute over 10,000 hours of valuable husbandry support to the Aquarium and Zoo with all programmes being accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.