No need to be ‘all at sea’

MANY people will, by this stage of the summer, have visited a beach and while most of us have favourite stretches of shoreline, how much do we know about what actually goes on in the shifting sands beneath our feet?

Ireland has more than 7,500km of coastline, no part of the country is more than 100km from the sea and about half the population lives within 10km of it. So our lives are intertwined with the sea and the shoreline could be said to be our final frontier with the ocean.

As we roam the tide lines, step on rocks and pass shallow pools, we can easily miss out on all the life there, some of it invisible. But we can see a lot of it without really taking in what’s going on. Maybe that’s because of a deficiency in the education system.

Primary school teachers in Galway recently finished a week-long training course on how to incorporate marine studies into their schools through fun activities and projects.

A Sea for Society research project across a number of EU countries last year found that “gnorance’’ and “lack of understanding’’ are key barriers to the development of a sustainable marine ecosystem. The Marine Institute and Galway Atlantaquaria tackled this barrier by introducing teachers to their local seashore, using it as a unique teaching resource.

“Through the Explorers Education programme and teachers’ training course, we provide an opportunity for teachers to learn about their local seashore as well develop an understanding about the importance of Ireland’s marine resource and ocean wealth,” explained Cushla Dromgool-Regan from the Marine Institute.” The Explorers annual teacher’s training course has been run through the Galway Education Centre for nearly eight years and continues to be popular with teachers.

The host of creatures found on the seashore include barnacles, crabs, limpets, periwinkles, mussels, jellyfish and sand eels, to mention just a handful, while there’s a variety of seaweed, kelp, wrack, Irish moss and lichens.

The cry of gulls is constant and numerous other birds are also to be seen, not least that little songbird, the rock pipit, and plenty of waders that have a natural habitat in shores and estuaries. If you look upwards towards the cliffs you might spot seabird colonies, such as kittiwakes, razorbills, fulmars, gannets and guillemots.

-Primary school teaching materials relating to the seashore and marine are available through the Explorers Education Programme: HERE


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