Conservation Education Society- What We Do and Why We Do It!

Would you believe me if I told you, right here in Diani, we have people, that live just a few kilometers from the ocean, yet they have never been to the beach? That might be shocking to you, but I promise you it’s not out of ignorance, but a matter of priority! Majority of coastal communities in Kenya live in extreme poverty and visiting the beach for leisure is not a luxury they can afford both financially and time wise! As a boy child, you probably have a high chance of visiting the beach more with friends than with family. As a girl child you will probably wait until you are old enough to visit the beach by yourself, if ever at all!

Living in the coastal region means we rely heavily on the oceans resources but despite that many of us know more about forests than we know about the ocean. In Kenya, ask any kid, what are the iconic species on the African continent, they will quickly mention the big five; the elephant, lion, leopard, buffalo, and rhinoceros. Now ask them the flagship species found in our vast oceans, the marine big five animals. Very few will provide the correct answer! I bet you too will probably have to quickly look it up! So go ahead and learn the flagship of our oceans if you didn’t already know them!  These iconic marine animals are a must-see wish lists for most ocean adventures goers! 

Flagship species in our oceans;
Humpback Whale Photo, Mother and calf; Jono Allen, winning photo of Our Life Underwater Challenge
Great White Shark; Image from WaterFrame RM
Dolphin; Image from Diving the Crab Kenya
Seal; Image from Vicki Jauron/Babylon and Beyond Photography via Getty Images
Penguin; Image from Britannica

How many of these species have you ever encountered? I have lived all my life in the coast and I have only seen the dolphin!

The ocean is just as important as any other habitat, if not more yet, it’s one of the most unexplored parts of our planet! The ocean occupies 70% of the earth surface while land occupies just 30%. 50% of the air we breathe comes from the ocean! The ocean is a source of food and medicine, controls global climate, provides energy, supplies jobs and supports economies! With such bountiness, we continue reaping its benefits and depleting its resources! Its only until recently, that the world is speaking up to protect our oceans by increasing awareness through education.  Education is the foundation to everything hence the first step to conservation action! Conservation education on the other hand connects people with nature and influences people’s attitudes, emotions, knowledge, and behaviors about wildlife and nature. For instance, many people are not aware that it’s not only our activities in the marine environment that affect life in the sea it’s also the things we do on land! When people learn that, and implement behavioral change in their lifestyle, they ultimately become part of the solution in reducing the amount of trash that reaches our ocean and so on! This is where we come in! Conservation Education Society (CES) work with local students and communities along Kenya’s coastline, providing access to free marine conservation education.  

But Who are we?

CES is a not-for-profit based in the south coast of Kenya, and was founded in 2019! We are a small team steering this start up, our only dream being to provide opportunities for local students and communities to learn more about our oceans by connecting them to nature. CES work with all ages! We have partnered with local schools and teachers, and help by providing them with the tools and knowledge on marine life and conservation. Our education programmes are engaging and we create materials that are interactive and different from what they would get in classrooms! What is more, our programmes do not only increase a sense of responsibility but also increase confidence in our students and empowers them to take action in protecting nature for future generations and to appreciate one of Kenya’s phenomenal natural resources, the ocean.

We cover a range of topics including; the biodiversity found in our oceans, marine animals, importance of our oceans, waste management, sustainability. Our activities are varied and include school education programmes, teacher training workshops, after school clubs, fieldwork trips, beach clean-ups, the creation of online resources, development of educational tools and worksheets for schools, screening ocean documentaries in schools and a free annual conservation awareness event; the Diani Sea Turtle Festival.

Students from a local school on a glass boat ride to learn about marine habitats

Here are some occasions that I remember of the top of my head, when I have felt that what we do has a profound impact to the students that cross our path!

I remember this one time, when we took a group of students to the beach for a cleanup which by the way is not always about the cleanup but an opportunity for the students to have some beach time! We had a student who was scared to even touch the water! It was his first time seeing the ocean and the sight of so much water scared him. Guess what, at the end of the precious one hour at the beach, the student left having put his feet in the ocean and was so happy for the experience!

Students from school for the mentally challenged attending our annual sea turtle festival.

Then there is this other time when we had a group of students that were coming all the way from Kwale, about 40 minutes from the coast, they had only seen a river but not the ocean. The students were so excited about the trip and the thought of seeing the ocean for the first time that most of them did not even sleep the night of the trip! On the day of the trip the students were tired on arrival, but that did not stop them from learning and experiencing, and when we got to the beach, they all gasped at its beauty! On many occasions, a field trip to the beach means a first time glimpse of the ocean for many of these kids and the beginning of learning about the diverse life of the ocean!

On other occasions, you meet students who are so shy and do not know how to express themselves but through team work and a different environment our educational workshops brings out the best in each one of them. At the end of most of our education programmes most students come out of their shells. You’ll just never know what to expect from these kids. Sometimes you might be teaching them about sea turtles, our flagship species, but find they are more interested in sharks! So you’ll get hundreds of questions about sharks!

For every engagement we’ve had with the students, they leave more aware of the importance of the ocean! What keeps us going is, even though we know they can’t learn all about the ocean in one single day or trip or even through a whole year curriculum, but as long as they leave us having learnt one thing or two about the ocean, if we have helped peak their interest, we are a step ahead in protecting our oceans! 

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