The Back to Nature: Jellyfish Lake program aims to foster environmental stewards who actively engage and work on protecting and conserving our natural environment. This program helps young people connect to nature, increasing their appreciation and knowledge of the natural world to encourage youth to advocate for positive changes. It focuses on Jellyfish Lake to promote a sense of ownership and increase local knowledge of Jellyfish Lake. Why Jellyfish Lake? Jellyfish Lake is a unique marine environment that is special to Palau; it is home to millions of a unique Golden jellyfish found nowhere else in the world. We have created the program to ensure that students get the chance to visit and explore the lake, feel that connection to this special place, and foster a passion and desire to protect the lake.
The program has three parts:
Day 1 – Introduction to the Back to Nature program and marine lakes
Day 2 – Exploring Jellyfish Lake using the scientific method and tools
Day 3 – Data analysis and presentation of results and conclusions
To promote sustainability of the program by institutionalizing it into Palau’s Ministry of Education curriculum and private schools, Coral Reef Research Foundation has trained teachers to conduct the program, developed lesson plans to guide teachers and students, and acquired equipment accessible for all schools to use for the program. Starting in SY 2022–23, teachers should be able to conduct the program on their own using equipment signed out from CRRF. Arrangements for equipment use can be made by emailing CRRF at [email protected] or [email protected] or calling 488-5255.
On Day 1, students learn about marine lakes, Jellyfish Lake and the program through a 45 minute presentation. The presentation gives a general overview of the physical attributes and biological assemblages of the different types of marine lake environments. In preparation for the field day, students are introduced to four activity stations with useful information about the environmental variables that will be measured, a description of pink bacteria layer and stratification, and an overview of plankton and classification of organisms found in the lake.
On Day 2, students explore, observe, and learn through hands-on activities about Jellyfish Lake and science. The field day takes one full school day (8am – 2:30pm). Being scientists for the day, students will learn about the physical attributes of the lake and biological assemblages through four activity stations. These four stations are based on monitoring and research Coral Reef Research Foundation has conducted in Jellyfish Lake for over 20 years.
Temperature, Salinity & Oxygen Profile (TSO) Station: Students observe and learn about stratification in Jellyfish Lake by using a YSI water quality meter to measure and record temperature, salinity and oxygen levels from 0–15m. We tie in how these environmental factors affect living organisms, specifically the Golden Jellyfish life cycle and numbers of jellyfish.
Pink Bacteria Layer Station: Students learn about stratification, the pink layer of bacteria and the anoxic layer in Jellyfish Lake by using a Nansen bottle to determine the depth of the pink layer – they will observe the color and smell of the water from different depths. A fun and simple activity, students guess the depth and smell of the pink layer before starting. We tie in how oxygen is important to marine life, and how stratification affects where living organisms are found in the lake.
Plankton and Microscope Use: Students learn about plankton in Jellyfish Lake by using a fine-mesh net to catch plankton, and using a field microscope to observe different zooplankton and phytoplankton. Students will draw or take photos of plankton with their cell phones. We tie in the importance of plankton in the food web of the Golden jellyfish, explaining how the Golden jellyfish eats zooplankton but also relies on zooxanthellae, or algae, in their tissues for nutrition.
Scavenger Hunt for Lake Organisms: Students explore the mangroves and sides of the lake to observe the marine organisms living in Jellyfish Lake. They go on a hunt to find different organisms, documenting their color, substrate and the depth they were found. Tying in the classification system and phylum groups students learned about the day before, they identify the phylum to which each organism belongs. As part of the learning experience they use underwater cameras to photograph marine organisms.
At lunch time, students will pack up and leave for Ngermeaus Beach for lunch. They will snorkel, swim and explore the reef near the beach for a comparison with Jellyfish Lake.
On Day 3, each student group reviews what they learned during the field day, graphs their TSO data with the pink layer labeled, and organizes plankton and scavenger hunt photos. After group discussions, students will share their graphs and the photos they took. Students will present their work to the classroom in a typical science format: Introduction, Methods, Results and Discussion. This activity accomplishes three objectives: (1) students synthesize what they have learned through the program, (2) students learn about the parts of report writing and presentations in science, and (3) students practice public speaking.
For some distant schools like Kayangel, Angaur, Sonsorol and Hatohobei, the program is modified to be a one day event. For this modification, the wrap up is conducted at Ngermeaus island, and students discuss and present their work to their classmates right after lunch.
Through this program, CRRF has provided training for science teachers of 6th and 8th grade in all elementary schools of Palau. At the start, CRRF introduced the program to teachers and took them to Jellyfish Lake to run through each station of the program so that teachers would become familiar with lessons and activities. An additional workshop was held in July 2021 to work further with teachers on microscope use, marine invertebrate identification, creating graphs and learning more about the pink layer. These workshops, along with the Back to Nature: Jellyfish Lake lesson plans, helped prepare and guide teachers in conducting the program on their own.
The Back to Nature: Jellyfish Lake program has reached 6th and 8th graders in all 19 elementary schools (17 public schools, 2 private schools), from Kayangel in the north all the way to Hatohobei in the south. Through the two academic school years (2020–21 and 2021–22), over 800 students have participated in the program. In addition, four high schools (1 public, 3 private) and two different youth organizations have participated. The program can also be modified to accommodate students as young as 3rd grade. Our goal is for Back to Nature: Jellyfish Lake to continue in the schools, reaching even more students in the upcoming school years.
Funding for the program was generously provided by the GEF Small Grants Programme and the New Zealand North Pacific Development Fund (School Year 2020–2021), and the Canada Fund for Local Initiatives (School Year 2021–2022).
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