Letters, January 7 2022

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Bringing our seas to life

The Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust has been inspiring children to cherish their marine environment for over 15 years.

More than 200 schools and 10,000 children have taken part in the charity’s educational programmes since 2005.

Connecting young people to their marine environment is crucial if we want them to help protect it. It’s so heartening to experience the children’s energy, enthusiasm and awe when learning about whales and dolphins.

Our sessions are so important as they spark passion and interest in the local environment and encourage conversations about the actions that we can all take to help protect it, now and in the future.

Players of People’s Postcode Lottery have supported the charity, raising £80,000 since 2017 to support the development and delivery of new and immersive learning experiences that bring the marine environment to life for children in coastal communities.

Our latest creative project, funded by People’s Postcode Trust and Sea-Changers, has been to launch the best of their education sessions online, working with schools and home educators across Scotland and England.

Based around the trust’s research expeditions, these digital sessions introduce the amazing diversity of whales, dolphins and sharks in Scotland and give children a glimpse into what it is like to work at sea, studying and protecting ocean giants.

Prior to the pandemic, every year school groups would join the charity’s crew on board their research vessel, Silurian, as she was temporarily transformed into a floating classroom.

The famous yacht has now visited communities on most of the larger Hebridean islands including Mull, Skye, Islay, Lewis, Harris, Uist, Barra, Coll, Tiree and the Small Isles; as well as some of the largest towns along Scotland’s west coast, such as Oban, Mallaig and Ullapool.

Raising awareness and aspirations for green careers features at the centre of the charity’s education strategy.

Each year the trust runs dedicated research expeditions for 16- and 17-year-olds on board Silurian.

These young adults gain hands-on experience monitoring marine life, including collecting data as part of the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust long-term citizen science project, which informs local and national conservation efforts.

Anyone can help the charity monitor marine life, by reporting their sightings of cetaceans – the collective name for whales, dolphins and porpoises – and basking sharks online.

The trust also offers guided field trips for schools, so that younger children can take part and experience the thrill of spotting seabirds and marine mammals from land.

Local wildlife is not only amazing to see, but each species also has an important biological role to play.

By protecting whales and giving marine ecosystems the chance to recover, we can improve the health and resilience of our seas and in turn the climate and planet for us all.

We’re really proud to support the next generation of ocean ambassadors and look forward to when Silurian can once again become a floating classroom and set sail for island schools.

In the meantime, teachers or home educators keen to take part in our online sessions are encouraged to get in touch by emailing info@hwdt.org

Pippa Garrard, education manager, Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust.