Investigating the effects of erosion on the beach Guardians
Every year, Paluma Environmental Education Centre partners with the Reef Guardians Schools program to
educate students about the importance of caring for the Great Barrier
Reef. The Reef Guardians Schools program is run by the Great Barrier Reef
Marine Park Authority, which is one of our longest-standing partners. Reef
Guardians Schools targets primary and secondary schools within the coastal
catchment of the Reef, but most participating schools are from the primary
At the beginning of the year, teachers from our Centre travel throughout
the North Queensland Region to connect with class teachers from Reef Guardian schools in after school
networking meetings. Resources and
contact details are shared and dates are set for excursions or in-school
support. In third term, students from Reef Guardians Schools come together to
participate in a district Future Leaders Eco-Challenge. The FLEC runs for a full day and is totally
hands-on. Small schools send their whole
student cohort; larger schools may send one year level, their student leaders,
or members of their environmental club.
Learning activities are resourced and run by GBRMPA officers and by
partner agencies, with this year’s theme focusing on behaviours on land that
affect the health of the Reef.
This year the Hinchinbrook FLEC was held at Forrest Beach near
Ingham. It was gorgeous North Queensland
day – sunny, bright blue sky, warm but with a cool breeze. The only concern was a sighting of a
“four-metre visitor” cruising offshore.
We didn’t move down the beach until we were sure he’d moved on, had
adult spotters on duty in case he returned, and other adults filling the
buckets with water for our erosion activity.
Students worked through a rotational program to conduct a marine debris
survey of the beach (led by Tangaroa Blue), water quality testing of a small
creek (led by Terrain NRM), a turtle hatchlings game (led by GBRMPA) and our
beach erosion. Students worked in small
groups to construct a sandcastle, three sides of which were either left bare,
or reinforced with planted seaweed or small stones. These latter two simulated vegetation cover
on the beach berm or man-made rock walls, both obvious features on local
beaches. Water was then poured onto each
surface and the resultant erosion noted.
Variables that may have had an effect on the amount of erosion were
discussed, then students had the opportunity to use any other materials on the
beach to try and protect the remaining side of their sandcastle (shells,
driftwood, cuttlefish skeletons). This
simple but engaging activity is drawn from Year Four Science, prompting
teachers in small schools to collect their students’ results as part of their
assessable collection of work. At the
finish, no-one could resist an uncontrolled cyclone-type assault on their
sandcastle, with jugs of seawater dumped with enthusiasm. As Forrest Beach suffered significant damage
in both Cyclones Larry and Yasi, this allowed us to talk about both
natural and human impacts on the beach and its fringing reef.
While support for Reef Guardians
Schools requires a significant commitment from our Centre, it is a most
valuable program. Aside from the
environmental objectives of Reef
Guardians Schools, our participation strengthens our relationship with
coastal schools within our huge Region and makes good use of our
resources. And, as the pictures show, it
was a gorgeous day.