Educating our children on the wonders of ‘gomon’ | 03 October 2020
“What are seagrasses?”
“Aren’t they the same as seaweed?”
“Why do they matter?”
These are some of the questions which the Seychelles’ Conservation and Climate Adaptation Trust’s (SeyCCAT) Seagrass Meadows team attempted to address in a pilot exercise with 13 children during the August school holidays.
The Natural History Museum Club, under the department of Culture, hosted the event which took place over the course of an entire morning and is one of several events on the SeyCCAT’s Seagrass Meadows calendar under the two-year Coastal Wetlands and Climate Change project.
Seagrass meadows have often been referred to as the ugly duckling of marine conservation. In comparison to coral reefs and other colourful, vibrant formations on the sea beds of our ocean, it is easy to understand why a meadow of grass will fail to attract similar attention or affection. However, their importance is far greater than what the eye would have us believe. Seagrass meadows are critical to the survival of not only the marine world as we know it, but to a large extent, life on land as well.
While the extent of their importance is still being studied, some facts have already been established; their existence is crucial in maintaining a healthy climate, healthy oceans, biodiversity as well preserving cultures and providing for communities.
Scientific findings on seagrass meadows are emerging regularly all over the world. The Seychelles’ government has made a commitment to join this global endeavour and also to pioneer ocean action for the conservation of seagrass meadows. This commitment kicked off at the start of 2020 with the launch of the Coastal Wetlands and Climate Change project which aims to map and quantify seagrass meadows in Seychelles and to highlight their importance to reducing levels of greenhouse gases (especially carbon dioxide) in the atmosphere. In this way Seychelles can demonstrate to the world just how important our seagrass ecosystems are in reducing global climate change.
The Coastal Wetlands and Climate Change project focusing on seagrass meadows is being implemented by SeyCCAT.
One of SeyCCAT’s priorities for the project is to raise awareness about the generally overlooked seagrass meadows. Children and youth are an exceptionally important target group. Only by planting the seed of seagrass appreciation in them can we ensure preservation of these ecosystems for future generations.
The pilot exercise with the young members of the Natural History Museum exposed the young participants to the complexity of marine ‘gomon’. Many Seychellois do not realise that what they know as ‘gomon’ actually comprises several species of seagrasses as well as many more species of marine plants in the “algae or seaweed” group. Organisers of the Museum Club event visited Anse aux Pins the evening before and collected buckets of ‘gomon’ that had washed up onto the beach. The children were asked to sort through the ‘gomon’ and determine how many different types of marine plants they could find. The seagrass consultant and well-known scientist, Dr Jeanne Mortimer, delighted the children with a short presentation which highlighted the role of seagrass meadows in maintaining a healthy marine environment and in providing food for our ocean friends, in particular, the turtles, which the children were very excited about.
She also showed photos of what the various plants looked like when they were alive and attached to the sea floor in their natural habitat.
The children were then asked to take a second look at the ‘gomon’ they had previously sorted and try to identify the different varieties they had learned about in the presentation. They were able to do this very well.
The children then got the chance to show how well they had grasped the concepts by completing an age-appropriate activity book which contained further identification exercises as well as other standard activity book fun like mazes, word finds and crosswords – all of which were seagrass meadows related.
Last but not least, the children also got the chance to display their artistic skills in creating face masks and paper plate art where they depicted the wonders and beauty of the underwater world.
The pilot exercise was the first of a series of similar outreach activities which SeyCCAT will undertake in the coming months when it brings its ‘Wonders of Seagrass and Other Marine Gomon Travelling Road Show’ to the schools.
There are also plans for a national exhibit that will be shown during November 2020 which will also coincide with SeyCCAT’s 5th anniversary.