Environmental Education Day At Graeme Hall October 25, 2008

Children at the SanctuaryOn Saturday, October 25, 2008, Graeme Hall Nature Sanctuary will host an Environmental Education Day.  The cost will be free to children age 17 and under, and admission for adults will be only one dollar.

Guided and self-guided tours will be available, and a free Nature Guidebook will be handed out to the first 1,000 visitors.

The Sanctuary has provided community-based environmental education programmes for students, teachers and the general public for over 10 years.

“We have been supporting year-round environmental workshops and educational programs at the Sanctuary and throughout Barbados,” said Harry Roberts, General Manager of the Sanctuary.   “Our main goal has been to provide a living outdoor classroom for teachers, and provide an enhanced eco-tourism facility that can support educational programming.”

According to Roberts, there are many professional educators, environmentalists and others who have a keen interest in the future of the Graeme Hall Nature Sanctuary as a natural heritage site.

Existing, environmental and natural history education materials already in use in Barbadian schools, coupled with the natural setting of the Sanctuary, will help students and the public appreciate the “working” mangrove ecosystem at Graeme Hall. 

“Our nature guidebook which will be handed out during our Education Day contains educational material for our teachers at all grade levels,” said Roberts.   “We did this in response to requests by many teachers who needed field science materials for their existing curriculum.   Evonda Hurley, a teacher at Westbury Primary, was one of the teachers who suggested we do this, and she has also encouraged us in the past to keep groups small to  maximize the bird watching experience.”

According to environmentalists, the Graeme Hall Nature Sanctuary illustrates the fragile balance of a native, natural Barbadian estuarine ecosystem and how human occupation has affected it over the course of 300 years.

The Sanctuary has been developed to show how minor changes in soil elevation and water level—sometimes only a few inches—can have drastic effects on ecosystems.  As one of the last intact wetlands in Barbados, Graeme Hall showcases a littoral, estuarine system and its related biological community, and the dynamics of the Graeme Hall Watershed as it relates to the sea. 

A key role for the Sanctuary is to illustrate how Barbadian ecosystems are affected by people.  “Many students, and most visitors, do not understand the relationship between humans and aquifer and surface water management, drained wetlands, wetland restoration, xeriscaping, urban sprawl and agriculture,” says Roberts.    “The Sanctuary offers environmental education in such a way as to allow students and visitors to develop a critical eye for contemporary Barbadian environmental concerns.  Over the years our visitors have participated in various workshops and activities such as wetland education programmes, photography, gardening, music, bird watching, and other activities.”

Surrounded by white and red mangroves, the Sanctuary has been a historical resting-place for migratory birds traveling the Caribbean flyway between North and South America.  Careful attention to the Sanctuary's environmental design ensures that mangroves will grow and visitors can witness hundreds of nesting egrets and other species without disturbing them.

“I think it is also important to demonstrate how environmental awareness can be integrated with sound business and behavioral choices,” said Roberts.