||Friday, May 8th, 2009 [ versión español ]
Keyshla Quiles stared in marvel while she felt the sea urchin move about the palm of her hand. Minutes before she had looked with mistrust at a starfish, but after holding and feeling the subtle ticklishness of that organism stuck to her skin, her expression changed. Now, the sea urchin allowed her to move its antennas without causing insecurity and before she abandoned the tank where it was exhibited, the 14 year-old young lady made the declaration, “I am going to be a marine biologist.”
This phrase was heard more than once by many of the 46 children from different public housing residences in Mayagüez that recently participated in Marine Adventure, one of the emblematic activities of the Sea Grant Program of the University of Puerto Rico with its base at UPRM. The event had the goal of educating the Island’s youth about environmental conservation through direct contact with the sea.
On this occasion the activity was carried out with the collaboration of the Centro Universitario para el Acceso (CUA) and their Project, Carvajal for the Democrization of Knowledge. The event took place at Playita Rosada in Lajas, a place fortunate for their marine ecosystem diversity.
“This is a tremendous opportunity for us. We are going to teach them to love these resources, to get to know them and to understand that these resources belong to them and that they have the right to access them,” stated Ruperto Chaparro, director of the Sea Grant Program.
With names such as the seahorses, the lobsters, the squids, and the dolphins, the children were divided into groups and alternated between different stations in which the personnel of the UPRM Department of Marine Sciences informed them about the mangles, the sand, scuba diving, water quality, marine vegetation and invertebrate organisms.
“We are here because we all love this University,” commented doctor Rima Brusi, of the UPRM Department of Social Sciences and one of the founders of the CUA.
“The University not only lets them see the ocean, it allows them access to the knowledge that allows them to understand the ocean,” added the professor.
That was the case for John Torres, one of the children who were surprised after they revealed some of the mysteries of Marine Sciences, such as the fact that the gel utilized in human hair to make styles such as the Mohawk, comes from algae.
“What they don’t know, they can’t protect,” assured Hernán Torres, who facilitated the presentations on invertebrates, one of the principal attractions of the activity.
CUA is a program that came about from the preoccupation of various UPRM professors, who after analyzing admission data became aware of the scarce number of residents of public housing that achieved acceptance to UPRM. Through summer camps, tutoring, Saturday activities and preparatory courses for admission exams the program proposes to inspire children to become future UPRM students.
“The idea is for those who are in seventh grade right now, that I see them being accepted to UPRM,” commented Brusi.
Doctor David González of the Department of Industrial Engineering and member of CUA, shared Brusi’s sentiments and mentioned that it’s not possible to achieve changes in a country if “your marginalize people from education.”
Marine Adventure also was visited by UPRM’s chancellor, doctor Jorge Iván Vélez Arocho, who noted that the University has an obligation to favor programs that help these students not only get accepted to UPRM but to stay there after acceptance.
“All of these students have rights. They have the right to an education and to know a place such as this one. This is a unique place,” emphasized Vélez Arocho, who assured that the University will continue offering its assistance to this project.
The program already has enrolled 120 students from middle and high schools.
The author is the Press Official for the Sea Grant Program.
Student Keyshla Quiles had the experience of touching a starfish, as part of the Marine Adventure.
Participants received information about different marine topics. They are accompanied by UPRM Chancellor, doctor Jorge Iván Vélez Arocho.
Close to 46 students visited Playita Rosada in Lajas to learn about environmental conservation.
John Torres was surprised after finding out that hair gel comes from algae.
Hernán Torres facilitated conversations about invertebrates, one of the principal attractions.
Photos by Oliver Bencosme