All of the work we do at Wembury (and beyond) contributes towards The Wildlife Trusts’ vision of ‘Living Seas;’ a vision where the marine environment is managed sustainably for the benefit of all its inhabitants and where people are inspired by marine wildlife and value the sea for the many ways in which it supports our quality of life.

Since I started working for Devon Wildlife Trust here at Wembury Marine Centre two years ago, I have had the pleasure of delivering an education project called ‘Marine Wildlife Champions.’  This project is an extension of the Wildlife Champions Network, which our Senior Education Officer Paul Martin has been running in Exeter for the past six years, working with local schools to improve their school grounds for the benefit of wildlife (and the children!).

Marine Wildlife Champions has been running for three years now, thanks to funding from the National Marine Aquarium in Plymouth, and the project has the aims of:

  • Increasing knowledge and understanding of the marine environment and the challenges it faces
  • Encouraging students to take the lead in effecting behavioural change in their school and local community (to champion the cause of marine wildlife)
  • Encouraging students to explore their own creativity and present findings to a wider audience.

In each year of the project we have worked with 10 different schools and colleges across Plymouth and South Devon.  Each school nominates at least 10 Marine Wildlife Champions, who will take the lead in developing a project within the school community or beyond which will have measurable outcomes for the good of marine wildlife.

MAP photo (Medium)

The funding allows us to spend half a day in each school, introducing the project to the Marine Champions and presenting them with five major challenges facing marine life, which they will then have to discuss and vote for one to base their project on:

  1. Terrestrial Pollution
  2. Plastic Pollution
  3. Climate Change
  4. Over fishing
  5. Protection of the Sea

In the first year of the project, Cat and I worked with 10 primary and secondary schools from Plymstock and Plmypton.  In year two we focused on inner city Plymouth schools and we received some additional funding from Western Power Distribution to allow us to work with additional schools.

This year we have rolled out the project across South Hams and the wider Plymouth area.  So far, we’ve recruited 9 schools with lots of excited and enthusiastic Marine Wildlife Champions, gearing up to tackle the challenges of plastic pollution and over fishing!

P3230027 (Medium)  MAP  MPAs

The funding also allows us to provide free transport for the 10 participating schools to attend our Marine Wildlife Champions Beach Conference.  On March 22nd, all 100 Marine Champions joined us at Wembury Beach for a fun day of activities based around the five challenges, as well as some good old rockpooling!

Shark Trust  NT  Modbury

Another great thing about this project is being able to work with local partners, all of whom share our vision of empowering the next generation of conservationists!  Experts from The National Marine Aquarium, The Shark Trust, The National Trust and Devon Wildlife Trust joined us at the beach conference to deliver the challenge activities and we are very grateful to them for giving up their time to do so.

The project culminates in June, with a presentation session at the National Marine Aquarium.  After having a personal tour of the aquarium by NMA staff, the Marine Champions will deliver short presentations/films/artwork on their projects – communicating to the other champions about how they tried to tackle their chosen challenge and if they managed to make a measureable difference in their school or local community.

Victoria RoadAs you can imagine a presentation to 100 other children (plus adults) can be quite a daunting experience for many of the primary school children, let alone the secondary pupils, but in the previous two years we have been consistently amazed at the achievements these Marine Champions have made, including their ability to present their messages and findings with passion and determination.  Each year we have been joined by VIPs such as MP Gary Streeter, marine experts and national marine policy officers, all of whom have spoken very highly of the children and the project as a whole.

In case you couldn’t tell I am extremely proud of this project and all of the children and teachers who have taken part over the past three years – thank you!

The ultimate aim for Marine Wildlife Champions is Sustainability!  We want to enable schools to continue to promote positive behaviour change towards the marine environment year after year and incorporate environmental awareness and conservation into their school ethos.’

Thank you to all the young Marine Wildlife Champions who will no doubt change the world one day and to the teachers who have supported them, to our funders and partner organisations, and finally to all the staff and volunteers at Devon Wildlife Trust who have supported the project.

Group shot (Medium)