Splashin’ Around the Pool: Earthraging’s Latest Addition!
Week #3 of Earthraging included new and exciting additions to the program–swimming pool time and environmental education sessions! Though last year’s program did not have a pool component, we were able to expand the program this year and dedicate an entire week to teaching snorkeling skills and running workshops to promote ocean awareness and action.
This exciting addition came to fruition thanks entirely to our wonderful and continued partnership with Wicked Diving, the ecologically-friendly and community-based dive center located in Khao Lak. Lena Bumiller, the Community Outreach Coordinator at Wicked, creatively and passionately organized these pool sessions via her close connections within the diving world and with local environmental groups.
It was through Lena and Wicked Diving that Mr. Olan, the founder and owner of Andaman Sweetlips Dive Academy in Bang Niang, graciously offered his state-of-the-art dive/swimming pool to us as a venue for our pool sessions, an act we could not be more grateful for. Having single-handedly designed and built the first community dive center in Khao Lak, Mr. Olan was thrilled about introducing marine safety skills, environmental awareness, and the diving industry to local Thai students. Mr. Olan even reserved his entire swimming pool and dive center for us for two days completely free of charge, enabling 120 students, 10 swim/snorkel teachers, and 4 representatives from local environmental organizations to learn, lecture, and laugh amidst the pool snorkel lessons and environmental presentations.
In order to handle the traffic of 60 overexcited students around a pool at once, we decided on a rotation system between six stations, allowing us to maximize the space and individualize attention. We compiled an interactive booklet for each child with a section that corresponded to the topics covered in each of the stations– shark conservation, turtle conservation, sustainable water filtration, trash and recycling, swimming technique, and snorkelling technique. The rotation time was 20 minutes at each station, giving the kids plenty of time to be introduced to their topic, play interactive games, answer questions, and do vocabulary work in the booklets.
For our waste recycling and water filtration stations, Mr. Olan’s extremely environmentally friendly property provided us with a perfect backdrop to showcase exemplary conduct, making these stations especially easy to run. The water filtration station was comprised of a tour of the complex water filtration system surrounding the property by none other than Mr. Olan himself. At the waste recycling station, Lena showed the kids a short video on the life of a plastic bottle that illustrated how recycling plastic reduces overall waste and saves both land and marine life. This point was driven home by several amazing posters Lena made, showing the numerous negative effects of marine pollution.
Next, the UK-based shark and marine conservation charity Shark Guardian, led a station detailing the importance of apex predators in maintaining healthy reefs and marine ecosystems. Liz Ward-Sing, one of Shark Guardian’s founders and directors, personally came on both days to introduce this topic to our RPK students.
Our final land station was led by representatives from the Mai Khao Marine Turtle Foundation in Phuket, a collaboration that was made possible by Lena Bumiller, Libby Faus, and Mr. Olan, all of whom traveled to Phuket to engage the foundation in the Earthraging program. At their station, two representatives from the foundation led a presentation about the importance and fragility of marine turtle populations, focusing on the adverse effects of human involvement on these species over the past few decades.
Our last two stations got the kids moving with hands-on swimming and snorkeling in a professional diving pool! The first station was run by RPK teachers Bing, Byron, and Libby, and involved getting the students acclimated to their snorkel gear, learning how to clear masks and snorkels, and an introduction to duck diving. The adjacent station, run by Wicked Diving staff, involved a more in-depth lesson on duck diving, practice keeping the snorkel above the water line while snorkeling, and an evaluation on each student’s aptitude and attitude in order to determine which of the students would go on the longtail snorkeling trip.
All in all, the pool sessions were a resounding success–the rest of the week back on campus was filled with students pulling us aside with a smile and saying “swimming – sanuk mak”! Our collaboration with other environmental organizations also connected us with like-minded, environmentally-focused groups who we hope will continue their involvement with Earthraging in years to come. Here’s to a great week in the pool and to an even better week snorkeling amongst corals!