Prime Minister the Hon. Philip E. Davis delivered the keynote address at BREEF’s Eco-Schools Bahamas annual Coordinators Workshop on Friday, October 6, 2023, at the New Providence Community Centre, under the theme, “Advancing Climate Resilience in The Bahamas.” Hon. Vaughn Miller, Minister of Environment and Natural Resources, and Minister of State, Hon. Zane Lightbourne, also brought remarks at the event.
Over 40 educators and participants from Abaco, Eleuthera, Exuma, Grand Bahama, Long Island, and New Providence attended the workshop. The two-day workshop culminated on Saturday October 7, 2023, with a BREEF 30th Anniversary Snorkel at BREEF’s Coral Reef Sculpture Garden in Clifton Heritage Park.
The Prime Minister underscored the government’s dedication to advocating for compensation for The Bahamas and other Small Island Developing States, vulnerable to climate impacts from major carbon emitters in larger nations.
He noted that as The Bahamas celebrates 50 years of independence in 2023, BREEF is also celebrating 30 years of conservation, recognizing the impact that BREEF has had in the country throughout the years.
“BREEF’s comprehensive approach to protecting our environment – from offering policy recommendations to engaging in hands-on restoration work and collaborating with the international community – has proven invaluable to conservation efforts.
“I commend you for helping to preserve our natural environment for generations of Bahamians to come,” Davis said.
During his official opening remarks, Minister Miller expressed his hope that through the Eco-Schools programme, the next generation of environmental professionals would emerge to confront the challenges posed by climate change and loss of biodiversity.
“To the educators among us, thank you for leading the charge in 44 schools across our archipelago to engage with our young people in a meaningful way regarding our environment,” Miller said.
Beth Hall, Eco-Schools Coordinator at St. Andrews International School, expressed her optimism, stating, “BREEF gives me hope in today’s world when you only hear bad news when it comes to the environment, and we sit right at sea level, and I want to give our children the best possible advice and up-to-date information on how to fight climate change.”
Thanking the BREEF team, Abaco’s Hope Town Primary School Coordinator Amanda Lightbourn said, “BREEF Eco-Schools Workshop did not disappoint! The workshops are always engaging and informative. It’s always a pleasure learning from the best. They help us acquire new knowledge in a supportive and informative environment, inspiring us to move forward and share it with our students and fellow teachers.”
Cheng Bee Selim-DeLa Pena, Eco-Schools Coordinator at the Bishop Michael Eldon School in Grand Bahama, described the annual workshop as a rejuvenating experience. She expressed, “The annual workshop is like a refuel for me. It allows me to ignite the spark, and the interest I have for the environment to encourage students in our school to become environmental stewards.”
Distinguished speakers included representatives from Waterkeepers Bahamas, The Bahamas Bureau of Standards & Quality, Bahamas Ecology Park Researcher, Drexel Gomez and the Youth Climate Ambassadors of The Bahamas Ashawnte Russell and Stephen Hunter.
The second day of the educators workshop included an in-water snorkelling experience at the BREEF Coral Reef Sculpture Garden. This snorkel was also open to the public and all snorkelling spots where Participants were treated to a complimentary snorkelling tour of the vibrant BREEF Coral Reef Sculpture Garden and Nursery, an ecosystem teeming with a rich variety of underwater flora and fauna.
“My first experience with BREEF was as a student on a field trip, and there’s always an amazing difference when you teach the theory in class about coral and marine ecosystems and when you have the students go out and get an increased level of appreciation for it.” Queen’s College Science Teacher, Delreco Bonaby explained.
First-time snorkelers shared their thoughts after touring the underwater sculpture garden.
“I had a great time! My BREEF instructor was really informative and I think what we learned today about coral reefs and marine ecosystems is general education that every Bahamian should have,” University of The Bahamas student, Yolanda Johnson said.
Another student from the Bahamians, Birds & Botany Club, Taneisha Davis said that this was also her first snorkel. “I was definitely nervous at first but with BREEF I felt safe and I felt like I enjoyed something that I wouldn’t normally consider doing in a safe and fun way,” Taneisha said.
“Our vision at BREEF is for a nation where all people appreciate the value of our oceans and everyone takes action to protect them,” stated BREEF Executive Director Casuarina McKinney-Lambert during her opening remarks reflecting of BREEF’s 30th Anniversary and Its Eco-Schools Bahamas programme.
She continued, “Over the years, we’ve reached every school across the country, we’ve had teachers from every school participate in in-water training, and we have been working tirelessly to get our entire community involved in conservation.”
Eco-Schools Bahamas is part of a global sustainable school programme active in over 79 countries. BREEF’s ESB network spreads over six islands with 19 government and 26 private schools. The workshop allows educators to network, share experiences, and gain valuable information to inspire students toward positive actions to adapt to and combat climate change through their respective programmes. BREEF has been running the Eco-Schools Bahamas programme since 2009.
The workshop was made possible through the generous support of the Primat Foundation, the Bloomberg Vibrant Oceans Initiative and Rolex Perpetual Planet Initiative. To learn more about BREEF’s Eco-Schools Bahamas Programme and its work in promoting the conservation of the Bahamian marine environment, please visit www.breef.org or email email@example.com.