SAN FERNANDO CITY—Every day, 25 Grade 6 students from the coastal city of San Fernando in La Union hold their morning classes on the beach. There, they learn about marine ecology, strengthen their awareness of the environment and understand the impact of the world’s changing climate.
They are undergoing a program called CURE-The Sea (Children Understand and Respect Environment), which aims to educate the children about the marine environment, says former Mayor Mary Jane Ortega.
The program, which is sponsored by La Union Rep. Victor Ortega, the Department of Education (DepEd), Red Cross La Union (San Fernando chapter) and the Rotary Club of San Fernando, started in September and will end on Dec. 13 when 1,200 Grade 6 students of the city’s 26 public elementary schools would have been trained.
The students are provided transportation, snorkels and masks, life jackets and lunch, and are allowed free use of the facilities of Blue Horizon Resort at Poro Point in San Fernando. Lifeguards are on hand to assure their safety.
Laura Riavitz, a marine biologist from Austria and consultant of the provincial government, is the lead resource person for the project. She visits different schools and civil organizations in La Union to lecture on the importance of conserving marine biodiversity.
Through Riavitz, the children learn about corals and coral reefs, the threats to their existence, and their importance to humans, as well as reef fish and their protection and conservation.
After the lecture, the children are led to a walking tour of the beach.
“The beach itself is a classroom full of interesting things to explore. After every lecture, a beach walk is conducted to educate the children in beach system, such as why a beach is important, cleaning it and observing different organisms,” Ortega says.
The children, after wearing life jackets, dive masks and snorkels, are later led to the water to observe firsthand live fish and corals.
DepEd officials, led by city schools division superintendent Linda Laudencia, and program supervisors, principals and science teachers were first introduced to the program before the students started attending their classes by the beach.
“They were given lectures on marine preservation and proper use of snorkeling gear and behavior in the water to help the students,” Ortega says.
She says the CURE-The Sea program promotes enhancement of education in marine ecology, in particular reef ecology, to give a better understanding of reef ecosystems and their impact not just on marine life, but on the lives and livelihoods of people.
It also aims to strengthen environmental awareness among the youth through marine field work and to increase the understanding of the consequences of climate change and its impact on the marine environment, she says.