Environmental and ocean stewardship at Broadreach
By: Fran Jackson, Broadreach HQ High School Adventures, Middle School, College, Parents, Scuba, Sailing, Marine Biology, Wildlife Conservation
At Broadreach, we aim for all students to come away from a program with a deeper level of understanding and responsibility for the environment and ocean. We incorporate environmental and ocean stewardship into daily program life, teaching ways to protect the incredible ecosystems we explore. We bring sustainable practices to the forefront of our thoughts and actions, and wanted to share just a few of the ways we do this on our Caribbean programs!
We believe in experiential learning – it allows Broadreachers to experience the wonders of the ocean in more personal and meaningful ways. By learning to scuba dive and spending 2-3 weeks living on the ocean, our students are in unique positions to observe ocean ecosystems and see firsthand the pressures they are under. These types of immersive experiences help create a deeper level of understanding and responsibility for the environment. We believe everything our students learn and experience will lead them to live more sustainably and protect the environment in their day to day life.
Community service is a way for our students to actively take part in conservation and regeneration projects. For the last few years, our marine biology students have had the incredible opportunity to help both the Curaçao Coral Restoration Foundation and the Saba Marine Park with their coral nurseries. The nurseries are home to both Elkhorn and Staghorn coral which, once grown to size, are outplanted into the surrounding areas to create habitats for Caribbean reef fish. These species of corals are critically endangered after intense bleaching, storm damage, pollution and disease. Our students get a taste of what it is like to be coral restoration practitioners by cleaning the corals, taking measurements and collecting data on the corals while learning from the experts the importance of these projects.
Through the years, we’ve found and learned new ways to interact positively with the environment. We actively encourage our students to pack reef-safe sunscreen. The brand we recommend (and that is always onboard our boats in the Caribbean!) is All Good sunscreen. A reef-safe sunscreen made from a blend of non-nano zinc oxide and other organic botanical ingredients, rather than the traditional chemicals that harm reefs. It is completely biodegradable, offers full broad-spectrum UVA and UVB protection and is water resistant – aka, perfect for the Caribbean sun! Our packing list also recommends students bring biodegradable soap, our favorite being Dr. Bronners.
A guiding principle we teach on our programs is to leave any area we visit in a better condition/state than how we found it – to take only photos and leave only footsteps. When onshore for hikes, we encourage students to pick up trash they see and, of course, to never leave anything behind. Our instructors take advantage of any teachable moments they can to build awareness about microplastics, endangered species and ecosystems, and pollutants in the ocean. Small changes on a personal level can truly make a difference.
On our diving programs, we run underwater cleanups, taking part in a PADI Project AWARE campaign to complete a Dive Against Debris. Our students learn how to safely collect trash on the seafloor, to help to improve the health of the local marine ecosystem. Later, data on types, quantities and location of debris we have collected can be reported – this data helps to stem the flood of debris into the ocean at its source to create a long-term solution. Once these skills are learned, they can be translated into students’ lives back at home.
We understand there are always improvements we can make as we continue to protect the environment! We hope students leave our programs with a better understanding of global environmental issues and some ways to tackle these on a personal level, and we are always open to new ideas and suggestions of ways to run more sustainable programs.