However, this time I was able to run the session on the beach at the West Beach Local Nature Reserve near Littlehampton.
The session started with some photographs of local dolphin and seal sightings and some background information. These are real sightings taken from my voluntary work as Sussex Regional Coordinator for Sea Watch Foundation and Sussex County Recorder for Sea Mammals.
We then discussed the problems that a stranded dolphin might encounter and what we would need to do to counter these affects. The two major problems being the affects of gravity as the dolphin is no longer supported by the ocean and the danger of heat exhaustion. We also discussed other problems such as stress from the pubic, dogs, sea gulls and other sources.
The children were divided into two group and given some props which included some buckets, a towel and other beach items which they could use to plan their rescue.
The scenario the children were presented with was that this bottlenose dolphin had become stranded on the beach. How can we keep it alive, provide first aid and return the dolphin to the sea.
Here are a few pics from the rescue
First job, check the dolphin is breathing and continue monitoring breathing as it is a good indication of the state of the dolphin. Some children kept the public (teachers) at a safe distance. One of the teachers ad-libbed a very persistent but well meaning member of the public.
Digging sand away to alleviate the crushing affects of gravity on its internal organs and flippers
We finished the day with a measuring activity to appreciate the size of a blue whale - by measuring out the length on the sand. The children had various activity cards with other animals and their sizes (including common seal, basking shark, humpback whale) to find their place on the line to compare their size to a blue whale. Again, an activity that I usually run on the school playing field.
It was a great day and the children learned lots of new stuff about marine mammals and the local coastline. They learned about the sea mammals that live of this beach and the scientific monitoring programme to study these mammals.
The children learned how dolphins are perfectly adapted to life in the ocean but how these adaptations work against them if they become beached. The children also learned about some of the conservation threats to sea mammals as well as experiencing the beach ecology and more.
The sea mammal project does work well in schools and of course they benefit from other multi-media presentation and activities - such as food webs. But running the session on the beach is a whole new experience that I will be hoping to duplicate.