Reflections After 5 Years of J.A.M.I.N.

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There are too many good memories to share, but I want to reflect on a few of the more unforgettable ones from my last five years implementing the J.A.M.I.N. program. And I don’t need to look at the data collected from our surveys to know that the program is reaching students and teachers in a meaningful way. Whether the gesture is great or small, what has most convinced me that we are making a difference is the appreciation, interest, and eagerness expressed by our students and teachers in Jamaica. 

Recently, I received an email from a teacher who taught at William Knibb High School, but who now works at another school in Kingston. She said, “I was wondering if the programme is capable of offering the experience to schools in Kingston as well. I believe your programme would fit perfectly into ours and give the students a chance to not only learn about our mangroves, but also aid in their restoration.” She wasn’t the first teacher who has contacted me about expanding the program to other schools in Jamaica. Several others have expressed interest.

Former participants also maintain interest. For example, a graduate of the J.A.M.I.N. program had once contacted me to tell me that he was now in college and wanted to present information about mangroves as a part of his class. His goal, he said, was to educate his classmates and teacher about the importance of mangroves.  

Amy helps students in the J.A.M.I.N. program learn about mangroves in the classroom and in the field.

On one of our field trips, a man riding his bike approached us and asked us what we were doing. Upon learning that we were doing mangrove fieldwork, he smiled and said that his grandson was in the program and that he knew all about it. He then went on to list, with great enthusiasm, all of the reasons why mangroves are important and need to be protected. All of this he learned from his grandson. He then thanked us and said, “Keep doing the good work.” 

Many of our students develop a genuine passion. During our first year of J.A.M.I.N., my colleague and I were approached in the school parking lot by a student who looked very upset. She had missed the school bus and, consequently, missed the final J.A.M.I.N. field trip earlier that day when the students had planted their mangrove seedlings. With tears streaming down her face, she apologized for missing it and went on to tell us that she had never considered a career in the field of marine biology until she participated in the J.A.M.I.N. program. She thanked us over and over again for the experience, and we reassured her that missing one field trip would not stand in the way of her passion and pursuing a career in this field.  

Students have shown their appreciation of the program in many other ways. Some students stay after class or come between classes simply to say thank you. My first thought is always: No, thank you for your enthusiasm. Former program graduates stop by to catch up, especially one named “Bird,” who makes a point to visit every time we are present. To students like Bird, I say: Thank you for sharing your future plans with me and your continued interest in the J.A.M.I.N program.Another time, the students put together a photo slide show so that “I wouldn’t forget them.” Trust me, I never will. This past year a student filmed the various parts of the program and made a video about it. He was so excited to show it to us, and I as a teacher have never been so proud. I was surprised again when, on my last day at one of the schools, several students presented me with a hand painted J.A.M.I.N. banner. They created the display so that they could proudly show their data to everyone in the school. Once again, the pride that they have for the program made me smile from ear to ear.

J.A.M.I.N. Spring 2018
While on the J.A.M.I.N. year 1 field trip, science teachers from William Knibb High School take a moment to pose with our Director of Education Amy Heemsoth.

It is difficult for me to put into words how fulfilling this experience has been, not only professionally, but also on a very personal level. Recently someone told me how positive and meaningful this program is to Jamaica—that it really is making a difference. The truth is, the students, teachers, and my colleagues have brought more meaning to my life than they realize. My experiences with them have affected me in countless ways. To my Jamaican family, I thank you.

Five years of J.A.M.I.N. in Pictures:


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