LEU Hits the Mangroves

LEU Hits the Mangroves

Excitement was in the air throughout the week of November 11th as LEU students prepared for their boat trip to see the mangroves up close. While school outings always cause high levels of anticipation, this trip linked closely to our Botany theme and our work on the structure and function of leaves in particular .

Once the boat left the dock, Captain Don captivated the students by talking about the three different types of mangroves (red, black, white) in the Cayman Islands, and proceeded to guide us towards a little cove surrounded by all three of the mangroves. He highlighted the importance of these plants to protect our shoreline from storm surges as well as to act as a nursery for 80% of the fish found in Cayman. He even had the children reenact the difference between one solitary mangrove being unable to withstand a ‘hurricane’(Joshua and Nicholas) and a group of mangroves tightly woven together being able to withstand the same ‘hurricane.’

With the boat moored, the children were given the three different types of leaves and were prompted to examine the difference between them: the red with its bumpy roots and lenticels that help get rid of salt, the black leaf that they all were able to lick to see how high the salt content was, and the white leaf with its nectar to attract insects and its ‘pores,’ which may help get rid of salt. They were also introduced to a propagule (baby mangrove), the way that it drops from its ‘mother’ into the water, and how it has one year to find a home and grow roots. Throughout this time, Captain Don expressed how impressed he was with the questions that some of the children asked and their high level of knowledge.

The class left the cove with their interest piqued and on the way to Iguana Alley the class was introduced to the Upside Down Jellyfish. The squeals could be heard as each child was allowed to hold the jellyfish, which, thankfully for all concerned, doesn’t sting. As we made our way through Iguana Alley the class was given the chance to spot baby mangroves that had started to take root or that were still clinging to their ‘mothers’. Finally, the class returned to dock, more tired but more aware of the importance of protecting mangroves in Cayman, as well as more insightful and more knowledgeable on the function of these plants.

Here are some of the children’s reflections on the trip:

Sadie: “There are lots of different types of mangrove but only three in Cayman. They cling to each other, which protects the land in a hurricane.”

Noelle: “The jellyfish flips upside down and it grows algae on it to eat.”

Charlotte: “I learned that when the baby mangrove falls into the water, it can take one year to find a home.”

Fin: “I enjoyed how we got to watch the jellyfish in the water, and I learned a few big words like propagule, which is a baby mangrove.”

Oliver: “I enjoyed licking the leaf. It was really salty!”

Jacob: “The Black Mangrove is salty because of the water it takes up.”

Malcolm: “I learned that even when baby mangroves are five or six years old they are still pretty small.”

Persey: “I found out that upside down jellyfish do not sting you.”

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