Step 1: Making the sand plot
In order to plant bits of coral, we needed some kind of base that the coral could grow from and that could also be used to attach it to the reef when the coral was ready to be replanted. The bases that we decided on were cement pancakes with a little divot hole in the top (to attach the coral fragment to using a marine epoxy) and a stick like appendage extending from the bottom that can be used to secure the pancake to the reef.
To make the pancakes we needed a nice open sandy area where we could pour the cement. The students took to the task with gusto – clearing and preparing a nice sandy patch close to the beach. Once we had the area set up, we poured water onto it to make it damp and proceeded to make small shallow holes that would serve to create the stick appendage.
|Digging our sand plot, where we would create our cement pancakes.|
|The sand needs to be smooth in order to create nice even pancakes!|
|Working together as a team|
|The class 5 and 6 teacher helping out on pancake making day. The sand needed to be moist in order to keep the form of the cement.|
|Using a stick to push small shallow holes into the wet sand. These would create the stick-like handle on the cement pancake that will hold it in place in the cage and then later when it is placed on the reef.|
Finally, we mixed up the cement (cutting it with a bit of sand) and poured it into each of the little holes the students made, adding a little extra at the top to serve as the pancake. Once they were set a little bit the students carved their names into them.
|Students pouring their own pancakes|
|Batch number one cooking in the sun!|
|Marching out to place the flag and the cage|
|This is our cage or rather its a bit of hurricane mesh that I acquired from another Peace Corps' house. We elevated it up on some rocks and placed more rocks around the borders as weight so that it would remain stable in rough weather.|
|Back on the boat - we filled the bucket with more water and kept the corals nice and covered until we planted them promptly afterward|
Sadly, however, a lot of students lost their coral fragments because they were playing a bit too much on the way out and in the end we placed a mere five pancakes in the nursery! Isa lei. But the point wasn’t to establish a highly efficient and productive coral recovery farm but rather for the students to go through the hands on process and in doing so attain a better connection to the marine environment.
|Showing off their corals and looking like little rock stars in my swim goggles.|
|A few of the successfully placed corals.|
All in all, I hope that my year with the kids and our environment club has left them with a little more knowledge and respect for their own environment and I hope (though I feel pretty sure about this one) that they had fun during the learning process. Until next term!