Helping children see seaweed differently

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Marine Conservation Society brings marine macro-algae to North Devon’s classrooms 

The UK’s leading marine charity, the Marine Conservation Society (MCS), has created a programme to bring a vital, yet often overlooked and misunderstood part of our coast to life for seven to eleven-year olds.

Seaweed, often thought to be slippery, slimy, smelly stuff, with no real purpose is the subject of a set of educational resources aimed at helping local children in North Devon to see this vital macro-alga differently. MCS has been working in the North Devon Coast AONB to develop the programme.

Seaweed provides protection from waves and storms, shelter for fish and shellfish, energy for intertidal creatures and even food for us. With around 650 seaweed species in the UK, we are living in a global diversity hotspot. It’s estimated that 70- 80% of the world’s oxygen comes from marine algae which also helps us by locking up C02 to slow climate change. Yet most of us are unaware of the importance of seaweed or how to recognise and record it.

MCS has been working on the Big Seaweed Search with the Natural History Museum over the past few years and has now created a new suite of downloadable resources to help primary school teachers and other youth group leaders introduce children aged 7 to 11, to the beauty, diversity and value of seven easily found seaweed species that thrive on our coasts.

Jules Agate, MCS Volunteer and Engagement Manager for the South West, who developed the ‘Teach On The Beach; Big Seaweed Search for schools’ says: “The North Devon Coast is a fantastic place to get stuck into seaweed! There’s lots of it, it’s a free study material available in some of the most beautiful outdoor classrooms of the entire UK. Our pack means you’ll never look at seaweed in the same way again!

Fun activities to do on the shore supplement the Big Seaweed Search activity itself. Associated indoor sessions use curriculum linked lessons, games, practical activities, video and even dance to bring seaweeds alive and encourage children to delve deeper and discover the amazing attributes of algae. All resources are freely available, and sessions can be amended to suit any particular group and teaching situation.

Appledore Primary School has already used the pack and one Year 6 student said: “Seaweed is algae that is found in the sea. It may look like just an old strip of useless slimy plants. I can tell you that you are wrong. I have learnt from The Marine Conservation Society that seaweed has many uses, including keeping us safe.

This project has been supported by the North Devon Coast AONB’s Sustainable Development Fund which is funded by Defra. The SDF supports projects such as Teach On The Beach; Big Seaweed Search for schools which bring environmental, social or economic benefit to the North Devon Coast AONB.

Jenny Carey-Wood, North Devon Coast AONB Manager says: “We are delighted to grant aid this project. The Teach On The Beach; Big Seaweed Search for Schools builds on the successful work carried out by the AONB’s Coastal Creatures project with primary schools across the area, using the beach as an outdoor classroom and connecting children to nature.”

For more information please visit the Marine Conservation Society website by clicking here.

Images: Jules Agate

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