West Coast wildlife charity reaches milestone

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Ten thousand school children have now taken part in educational programmes run by conservation charity the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust.

The trust has been inspiring children to cherish their marine environment for more than 15 years, with more than 200 schools having taken part in the charity’s educational programme 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,’ said Pippa Garrard, the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust’s education manager.

‘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.

The trust’s 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.

‘As an inner-city school with kids keen to find out about the ocean, the lessons really bring the experience into the classroom. An inspiring and rewarding experience. Thank you,’ said Lisa Perrie, a teacher at Sunnyside Primary School, Glasgow.

Prior to the pandemic, every year school groups would join the charity’s crew onboard 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 – 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.

‘My daughter (age 10) loved visiting your boat. Since her trip, she has been researching marine biology and has decided she wants to go to University in Glasgow to study this,’ said a parent of a pupil at Mallaig Primary School.

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,’ said Pippa Garrard.

‘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 at info@hwdt.org.’

NO_T1_Hebridean whale and dolphin trust milestone_02_Barcaldine Primary

NO_T1_Hebridean whale and dolphin trust milestone_03_Dunbeg Primary

Dunbeg Primary School pupils on whale and dolphin watch.

NO_T1_Hebridean whale and dolphin trust milestone_05_Taynuilt Primary

Taynuilt Primary School pupils aboard the charity’s floating classroon.

NO_T1_Hebridean whale and dolphin trust milestone_08_Scanning our Seas_Kilchoan Primary

Kilchoan Primary School pupils scanning the seas.

NO_T1_Hebridean whale and dolphin trust milestone_09_Whale Detectives_Kilchoan Primary

Kilchoan Primary School pupils being whale detectives.

NO_T1_Hebridean whale and dolphin trust milestone_01_Dunbeg PS

Dunbeg Primary School pupils survey the Silurian.