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Five Years, Fifty Students, One Reef

Community Actions

To celebrate World Oceans Day: Youth the Next Wave for Change, we shine the light on Concordia International School, Shanghai. In 2007 PADI Members Joel Klammer and Paul Adams made a big commitment to Racha Yai reef, Thailand.  Over the next five years their students witnessed firsthand coral bleaching; collected important data for conservation; discovered bananas and seawater never mix well and the joy of a 30 second shower!

Five years is a big commitment, what got you started and why? Terry Umphenour is a master teacher who has always been involved in creating outdoor education programs with his students.  He leads mountaineering courses during the summers and always knew that he wanted his students to be involved in marine ecology and environmental awareness as well.  During his time teaching in the USA, Terry started his first Marine Ecology program that involved PADI facilities in both Missouri and Florida.  Over the years the program flourished and he knew that he wanted to replicate the program when he moved to Concordia International School, Shanghai.  He contacted Paul and I, knowing we were PADI Instructors, and invited us to create a Reef Awareness and Marine Ecology program for Concordia.  We excitedly joined the project!

Why do you think outdoor education is so important for young people?

Outdoor education provides students with the opportunity to experience achievement and leadership through participating in a challenging diving and marine species identification program.  This experience not only develops skills, but also builds confidence, self-esteem, initiative, team work, and leadership skills.  Students leave this type of program with a sense that they can tackle any problem.

Five years on what do you consider the most important lesson for the students involved?

The students have learned an important lesson: our reefs are in serious danger. Also how to dive safely and respect the ocean; diving is not a game; the detrimental effect of human interaction on the reef systems; to be able to identify different types of indicator species of invertebrates, substrates, and fish by name; and the buddy system.  

If you could name one highlight over the five years what would it be?

Dr. Chavanich (Chulalongkorn University, Thailand) phoned the students on the ScubaCat boat to collect their data so it could be presented immediately at an Asia-Pacific reef conference.  The students realized their data and work was making a difference!  

Why do you think it’s important to encourage young people to care about our oceans?

Some of these students will become our future political and economic leaders.  All of them are the future voice for the oceans.  They have the motivation and energy to commit to make a difference in the future.  They’ve seen firsthand the destruction of our reefs.

What advice would you give to other schools or dive instructors planning similar programs?

Phil Lineker, a Dive Master on the trip said, "It was the best time of my life. I would do it again in a heartbeat".  He went on to become a PADI Instructor.  You get back out what you put in, it's refreshing to teach kids, and their achievements are a point of inspiration. Young students can be phenomenal divers and dedicated and serious data collectors.

What’s next on the conservation agenda at Concordia International School?

We've completed the five-year longitudinal study of the reefs at Racha Yai, Thailand so we are in the process of identifying a new reef system for our upcoming trips.  It may be in the Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia, or some other wonderful location!  If you have a reef system that you would recommend or would like to help support some of our future studies, please contact us!  Paul Adams (#481827) <> or Joel Klammer (#465407) <>

Congratulations you’ve certainly gone above and beyond for the young people at Concordia International School. A big thank you to ScubaCat Thailand for their commitment to our ocean planet.

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