Students teach, learn about marine life at conservation event

Mykayla Brady, 9, looks at plankton through a microscope at the "Marine World Magnification" stand. Monica Herndon//The Miami Hurricane

Ocean Kids brought students from low-income elementary schools together to learn about ocean conservation at the University of Miami on Saturday.

The fourth annual event was hosted by the Future Interests in Nature and the Sea Foundation, and the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science (RSMAS).

UM President Donna E. Shalala spoke to the children at the opening ceremony. Shalala told the children to embrace this opportunity by opening up their minds to the sciences. She also stressed the importance of attending college.

“Programs that are geared toward kids are really important for creating worldly, conscious citizens in the long run,” said senior Elise Keister, president of the UM Aquarium Club, who has been involved with Ocean Kids for two years.

Fifteen hands-on learning stations and touch tanks addressed topics like pollution, overfishing, coral reefs and marine mammal rescue. Students from various marine and atmospheric organizations coordinated the lesson plans for the event.

The children traveled through each station, getting their Ocean Kids passport stamped with national flag stickers after completing each activity.

One station, Touchable Tides, allowed the children to touch sea urchins, sea cucumbers, sea slugs and hermit crabs.

“I wanted to use this event to spread the importance of the ocean,” said sophomore Jeremy Whitehead, who wanted to apply his skills outside of the classroom.

Ocean Kids is now compiling a manual on how to recreate every station, so that it can be hosted around the world. Last year, the Clinton Global Initiative, a non-partisan organization that allows global leaders to devise and implement solutions to pressing problems, provided funds that would allow Ocean Kids to be held in Kuwait and the Bahamas.