T-SQUAD TALKS TURTLES
Did you know that adult female sea turtles can lay up to 100 eggs in a nest? Did you know this group of eggs is called a clutch? Did you even know that turtles lay eggs?
Second and third graders learned this and more if they were lucky enough to experience one of the 35-plus classroom sessions led by University of Guam Sea Grant Turtle Education outreach interns. Interns, or the self-dubbed “T-Squad,” did outreach consisting of a turtle nesting puppet show, six-foot life-size turtle cutouts, and maps of migration by Guam-born turtles.
Over 30 applicants vied for two internship slots, with a team eventually comprised of UOG undergraduates Marcel Jardeleza, Seanne Clemente, Cody Dowless, and Guam Community College student Natividad “Dottie” Rosario.
Exploring science and education careers
In December the T-Squad familiarized themselves with turtle research in Guam. They rode along with conservation officers, reviewed scientific literature, interviewed Department of Agriculture and UnderWater World employees, observed teachers, and went on turtle nest surveying trips.
“Doing the nest surveys, it was neat to see the amount of effort others put into protecting these animals. It made me proud to be a part of something that’s benefitting the environment,” said Dowless.
The T-Squad spent most of January developing an hour-long presentation for elementary students, writing a script and making educational props.
“Showing kids that they can dedicate their whole lives to something like conservation means a lot to me, because I never had that as a kid. In time, they are going to be the next ones doing presentations or conservation work like this, and then, they’ll be the ones leading the scientific community in solving the problems that their generation will face,” said Clemente.
The T-Squad spent February visiting eight elementary schools. Altogether, interns conducted over 37 classroom presentations, distributed 1,012 turtle coloring books called Haggan Tåsi Siha in Chamorro and English, and reached 1,253 students and teachers. The team completes sessions in March.
Elementary school visits prompted memorable experiences, usually elicited by questions such as “How do the turtles get away from the sharks?” and the infamous “Where do turtles poop?” However, some things were always a surprise despite extensive intern preparation.
“We were down at a third grade class. We walked in to begin setting up, and as I was talking to the teacher, I see in my peripheral vision a little boy vomit all over the floor. The rest of the presentation was fine, but that is something I won’t soon forget,” said Dowless.
Rosario’s background in primary education studies especially proved useful, as she led techniques for student management.
“As a team, we created a method called the turtles breathe. When the kids get out of focus, we’d say, ‘Turtles Breathe!’ then they stick out their arms like flippers and take a deep breath, which imitates the way turtles take a breath out of the water,” said Jardeleza.
The T-Squad discovered other means of retaining students’ interest.
“Trying to insert something the kids can relate to, such as a reference from a movie like Finding Nemo or Moana helped also,” says Clemente.
“Outreach efforts like these are still fairly fresh, and through education and early exposure, kids can definitely grow to understand the importance of conserving our fauna,” said Clemente. “Presentations like these are a good step in pushing kids in that direction.”
For more information about the Turtle Education outreach Internship and the Haggan Tåsi Siha coloring book, contact Marie Auyong, assistant instructor for Sea Grant, at email@example.com or call 685-4355.
About UOG Sea Grant
The National Sea Grant College Program is a partnership between universities and the federal government’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, an agency within the Department of Commerce. The Sea Grant network includes more than 3,000 scientists, engineers, public outreach experts, educators, and students. Based in the UOG Cooperative Extension & Outreach Service, UOG Sea Grant brings the science of coastal resources to Guam’s people as one of 33 programs across the nation. To learn more about University of Guam Sea Grant, see www.cnas-re.uog.edu. (UOOG)