Nature Foundation launches its first Junior Ranger programme | THE DAILY HERALD

St. Maarten Nature Foundation Educational Outreach Officer Leslie Hickerson (left) with Stéfanie Frederiks and Florianthe Boasman during the first meeting. Junior rangers Seybian Ortega, Jai Shahani, and Nubia Stomp joined online via Zoom.

PHILIPSBURG–St. Maarten Nature Foundation selected five students to participate in its first year-long Junior Ranger programme, and had its first meeting on Saturday, August 15.

The selected 2020-2021 Junior Rangers are Florianthe Boasman of K-12 International Academy, Stéfanie Frederiks of Caribbean International Academy (CIA), Seybian Ortega of Learning Unlimited (LU) Preparatory School, and Jai Shahani and Nubia Stomp of St. Dominic High School.

Students 12-14 years old applied to join the programme by submitting essays about what can be done to help the island’s natural resources. In the students’ essays, they highlighted the use of the landfill, plastic pollution, and the lack of recycling, among other issues.

The foundation says the goal of its Junior Ranger programme is to educate St. Maarten youth about the natural environment and motivate them to help protect it. This is its first year-long junior ranger programme, but last year it organised a junior exchange to Bonaire with the support of the Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance (DCNA).

Junior Ranger Stéfania likened the environment to a golden nugget. “Because if you own a golden nugget you will take very good care of it, you would not want it to become dirty and you would not want it to break. This is how we must treat this planet and our island,” she said.

“I am very excited to learn about ways I can help protect the environment. … I want to be able to make my ideas become real and be a role model,” said Junior Ranger Florianthe.

In the first meeting, the rangers discussed the threats they think have the most impact on St. Maarten’s ecosystems, and what residents and the Nature Foundation can do to combat them. Each meeting will cover a different aspect of conservation and/or St. Maarten’s terrestrial and marine environment.

With the contributions of the Prince Bernhard Culture Fund and Ocean Explorers Dive Center, the rangers will have the opportunity to earn Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) Junior Open Water Diver Certification. The course, which consists of theory, skills, and open water diving techniques, will give rangers the chance to see St. Maarten’s coral reefs first-hand.

Yacht Club Port de Plaisance funded the position of the foundation’s Educational Outreach Officer, and American University of the Caribbean (AUC) School of Medicine supported the Save St. Maarten Corals project, which will be a leading part of the Junior Ranger programme.

“The only way to make lasting change for St. Maarten is to educate the next generation to regard our natural resources with respect and instil a sense of responsibility to protect these resources. Including Junior Open Water Diver Certification is an outstanding addition, as it is a lifetime certification that these students will be able to apply either recreationally or in their future careers,” said St. Maarten Nature Foundation Educational Outreach Officer Leslie Hickerson.

Those wishing to volunteer or otherwise contribute to this programme can contact the Nature Foundation

Source: The Daily Herald