virtual tour

Candace Wade-Franklin prepares for a dive during a virtual tour of a coral reef through a partnership between Ivanna Eudora Kean High School and Coral World Ocean Park.

Partnering with Coral World Ocean Park, Ivanna Eudora Kean High School science teacher Michealrose Ravalier is finding creative ways to engage her students during the challenging times of virtual learning.

Knowing that learning is more meaningful if students can relate and interact with their environment, she wondered, “How can I adapt a lab about fruit fly behavior so that it would be more culturally relevant for my students? Our real world is right here in our own backyard, in this case, in our coral reefs.”

Last year, Ravalier led students on field trips to Coral World to study corals, marine ecosystems and human impacts on our oceans. That experience led her back to Coral World.

Marketing Director of Coral World Valerie Peters, who is passionate about bringing the private and public sector together for environmental education and has brought ECO Schools to the USVI, agreed to the use of the park as the location for a virtual lab.

“These types of collaborative efforts are key to engaging students in meaningful project-based learning and to encourage them to be part of finding the solutions to the many sustainability challenges we face,” Peters said. “This project is a perfect example of what we can do when we work together.”

Howard Forbes Jr., Virgin Islands Marine Advisory Service Coordinator at the University of the Virgin Islands, assisted with filming a 360-degree video of the coral reef at Coki Point. He and Jarvon Stout have been involved with monitoring Stoney Coral Tissue Loss Disease primarily through capturing videos or photos of the disease to be used in classroom presentations.

“The use of 360-degree cameras helps to make standard photos come to life by making them more immersive and giving the viewer the feeling that they are actually there,” Forbes said. “The benefits of this technology are far-reaching, as it can be paired with virtual reality goggles/headsets to bring environments such as the ocean to a classroom setting.”

The virtual field trip to the coral reef provided the opportunity for students to study coral behavior in response to environmental changes. Students experienced first-hand the impact of how warmer marine waters affect corals. As ocean temperatures increase, corals bleach and also can suffer from infections. The virtual field trip video will be made available for other students to learn about coral reefs.

Students Candace Wade-Franklin and V’Andre Rochester served as the data collectors for the project. In addition to making observations, they were able to assist Logan Williams, Research and Education Coordinator at Coral World, in the cleaning of the coral tree (nursery).

“It is my hope that this project will inspire other educators and students to explore new frontiers right here in our Virgin Islands,” said Ravalier.