Scoill Phurt le Moirrey, Isle of Man

Jun242013
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Sea squirts, crabs with big claws and miniature blood sucking sea monsters joined children for a lesson with a difference as they swapped their classroom for a beach. 

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The 20 children who make up years one and two at Scoill Phurt le Moirrey, Isle of Man, spent a day on Chapel Beach, Port St Mary, to earn their British Sub-Aqua Club (BSAC) Beachcomber certificates.  

Marine biologist Michelle Haywood, who runs Discover Diving, a BSAC centre at Port St Mary, ran the day-long course which taught the six and seven-year-old pupils all about the marine life to be found in rock pools and on the beach itself.

BSAC, which is marking its diamond jubilee this year, is the national governing body for underwater activities and trains and represents 30,000 scuba divers and snorkelers both in the UK and abroad.

The BSAC Beachcomber course has been introduced with the aim of supporting the branch clubs and diving centres which make up the organisation to provide more family-friendly activities.

Designed specially for young children, the BSAC Beachcomber is fun and easy to run and can add an extra element to a club trip, dive weekend where there are non-diving members or club family days and snorkelling events.

The Chapel Beach course was the first Beachcomber course to be delivered via a school.

Michelle said: “At Discover Diving I teach snorkelling and diving. The Beachcomber course gives me the ideal way to promote an interest in marine life in a way that requires no training for the participants and allows people of all ages to take part.

“We had a fantastic time with the children of Scoill Phurt le Moirrey. We started out talking about how the tide comes in and out. We had some children playing the role of the earth, some the moon and some the oceans being pulled about by gravity.

“We then learned all about beach safety before spending two hours going through rock pools and learning all about the marine life we found.

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“Of course, children being children, they were really excited about learning all about all the gruesome things such as dog whelks.

“They were fascinated to learn that they feed by boring holes in other shell fish and creatures and then injecting digestive juices into their prey and then feeding by sucking up the resulting ‘soup’. 

“They also learned that sea squirts’ mouths are also their bottoms, something they found equally fascinating.

“Of course it’s those sort of things they will remember most and hopefully, by harnessing their enthusiasm we will have got the children interested in marine life and the marine environment that surrounds them.”

Chief Executive of BSAC, Mary Tetley, said: “This is the first time that our Beachcomber course has been linked up directly with a school and we hope this first will be the start of more to come.

“There are so many issues and threats surrounding marine life, not just in the UK but all round the world. It is something which our members feel very passionately about protecting.

“We believe the course is a very useful way of highlighting how important and interesting marine life is to the younger generation in a fun and interactive way.

“It may even inspire a future marine biologist or two!”

Michelle continued: “We also looked at crabs, we found plenty of different species in and around the rock pools, and talked about the difference between a crushing claw and a claw designed for slicing. And of course we found thousands of tiny juvenile fish too.

“We also explained that you can tell the age of bladderwrack by the number of bladders each seaweed has as they add new bladders each year.

“I think the children were amazed by the sheer volume of marine life we found in the rock pools and on the beach. It’s been a wonderful day and I am looking forward to presenting children with their BSAC Beachcomber certificates.”

Michelle says Scoill Phurt le Moirrey is only 400 metres from Chapel Beach and despite the fact children will all have visited the beach before, the Beachcomber event was the opportunity to inspire pupils about the wide variety of life to be found on the shoreline.

She said: “At their age they are usually not strong enough swimmers to be able to start snorkelling. However, if we can give them a reason to want to be in the water because they know there is lots of life there, then hopefully it will inspire them to try and access the marine environment in the future.

“I hope we have made the pupils realise their classroom for the day is more than just a sandy stretch with some rocks but instead, it’s home to a wide variety of life. 

“Children from the school already participate in Beachwatch clean ups and regularly clean local beaches of marine litter, so they are very aware of environmental impacts on beaches.  

“I hope they learnt something interesting and they tell their parents and friends about it.  Discover Diving has already done snorkelling and try dives with guides and scouts groups, I hope we will be able to extend this course to Beavers and Cubs.” 

Michelle added:  “Discover Diving was established in 2007 and is a BSAC Centre of Excellence.  We train divers and snorkelers throughout the year around the Isle of Man.  

“The Isle of Man is located in the centre of the Irish Sea and  leads the way in several marine conservation efforts, pioneering the use of closed areas for fisheries management and protecting more than 3% of the entire territorial waters.  

“A variety of seashore habitats are found on the island, sandy, rocky, sheltered and exposed shores make this an ideal venue for studying marine life.”

 

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Headteacher of  Scoill Phurt le Moirrey, Sue Mowle, said she is grateful to Michelle Haywood and BSAC for running the Beachcomber event for her pupils.

She said: “It’s a brilliant, new and exciting learning resource. We have engaged in lots of science in a practical and interesting way and also learnt some important safety messages too.

“Our pupils are very fortunate in many ways to have such a wonderful local environment right on their doorstep. There are not many children that live so close to such a wonderful beach brimming with marine life.

“Hopefully, our children have been inspired through the Beachcomber event and are now more aware of the diversity of life right on their doorsteps. Importantly, from a safety point of view, they will now be more beach aware too.

“It really has been a fabulous, interesting and inspiring day and is something I am sure we will run again in the future so more children can benefit.”

Last Updated on Jul252013

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