Empowering Youth: The Return of our Mangrove Education & Restoration Program to Bahamian Schools

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This guest blog comes from Lianna Burrows, Outreach Coordinator at Friends of the Environment. The Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation partners with Friends of the Environment to implement our Bahamas Awareness of Mangroves (B.A.M.) program in schools in Abaco, The Bahamas. With her unwavering dedication, Lianna is instrumental in providing crucial support, enabling students to cultivate a deep understanding of our oceans and the significance of preserving mangrove habitats.

The definition of partnerships had a newfound meaning to Bahamians who experienced Hurricane Dorian in September 2019. So many relief organizations selflessly came to our rescue from so many different avenues, showing us the true meaning of partnership and dedication to our islands. As the island of Abaco has rebuilt over the past four years, we have been grateful for those partners eager to continue working with us as we come back stronger. Friends of the Environment (FRIENDS) is grateful for the partnership with the Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation (KSLOF) in bringing the Bahamas Awareness of Mangroves (B.A.M.) program back to Abaco this year. 

Patrick J. Bethel High School students embark on their initial field trip, immersing themselves in the exploration of mangroves.

FRIENDS is a Bahamian nonprofit organization located in Abaco, The Bahamas that was established 35 years ago. Our mission is to preserve the environment of Abaco through education, conservation and research facilitation. We aim to provide environmental education for local children and the general public on the importance of the Bahamian environment and best practices to protect it for future generations. While we have our own established programs, we are honored to partner with organizations like KSLOF to bring programs such as B.A.M. to local high schools.

The B.A.M. program was established in 2015 in two local high schools, Forest Heights Academy (FHA) and Patrick J. Bethel High (PJB) – formally known as Abaco Central High. This program aims to bring awareness to local students about mangroves and mangrove restoration, including their value to society, their importance to the coastal marine ecosystem and more. Bringing this program back has brought a sense of normalcy back into our organization and the high schools we reach through the B.A.M. program. 

At the end of 2022, we weren’t even sure we would be able to bring back the B.A.M. program so soon with the busy schedules of teachers and students catching up on work from missing school during COVID and Hurricane Dorian. But sure enough, as the school year resumed in January 2023, our teachers were eager to get the program back into their classrooms. For teachers, this program provides a free curriculum with learning materials such as worksheets, homework assignments and the like. Having a guest presenter/field trip leader like Amy from KSLOF is a fun and exciting component for both students and teachers. While we may be reiterating the importance of mangroves throughout our programs at FRIENDS, getting a different perspective from a guest visitor has proven to be successful. Students gain ownership of this program after going through the curriculum and receiving a certificate of completion, a great addition to their resumes. 

Lianna Burrows (FRIENDS), Amy Heemsoth (LOF), and Lyndeisha Curry (FRIENDS) proudly award students at Forest Heights Academy with certificates of participation, celebrating their completion of the program.

Programs like B.A.M. will always be remembered throughout students’ high school experiences. We are grateful for the opportunities provided for our students and teachers in Abaco through this program and look forward to our continued partnership with KSLOF in the years to come! 

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