Ni Komang Erviani , Contributor, The Jakarta Post , Denpasar | Fri, 08/22/2008 10:23 AM | Bali

The little green thing in Made Dharma’s hand quickly drew the attention of dozens of children gathered on the shore of Sanur’s Semawang beach on Saturday.

“Can anybody tell me what this is?” Dharma asked, displaying the five-“legged” animal he had just picked up off the beach.

“It’s a starfish!” the children answered.

Dharma, an activist of the environmental nongovernmental organization Conservation International Indonesia, proceeded to explain the details the animal, starting from the fact that its mouth is located on its underside.

“And they don’t always come in green, you know. Some of them are blue or red,” he said.

Dharma went on to other animals and facets of the ocean, beginning from the details on how seaweed and coral reefs support marine ecosystems to methods in mitigating its destruction.

The day was a special one for the children of the Nak Nik play group and of Life Skills School for drop-outs.

The event, held to celebrate the country’s 63rd anniversary, saw children traveling to beaches while learning about marine life.

The children greeted the event, which was held by the Marine Journalists Group and a number of other non-government organizations, with enthusiasm as they bombarded their older counterparts with questions about the ocean.

The children then wrote out or drew everything they had seen or understood on pieces of paper to be displayed in a children’s painting exhibition in Warung Kopi, Renon, from Aug. 19 to Aug. 26.

Committee chairman Gentry Amalo hoped the children’s participation could raise awareness and love of nature conservation, especially for coastal and marine environments, and create new perspectives of the sea.

We want these children to stop considering oceans as simply a place where they can spend their holidays,” Gentry said

Gentry said introducing the ocean early in life was important because the ocean and its ecosystem had been vastly ignored and neglected compared to land-based activities, adding that marine ecosystems serve as an integral part of the land ecosystem.

Ignorance of this fact, he said, had perpetuated the mass dumping of wastes and trash in the sea.

That’s why we want to poison these kids by introducing them to the importance of oceans as early as possible,” he joked.

He said the organizations participating in Saturday’s event would continue their support, with future events concentrating on other aspects of the environment.

Gede Santika Dharmaputra, a second grader from a Denpasar school, was thrilled to take part in the event.

I just found out that tortoises and turtles are actually different. I would never have realized that had I not joined in,” he said.

Santika listed methods on how everyone could help preserve marine environments.

No throwing toxic waste in the sea, no throwing trash in the sea, no using trawls to net fish and no using bombs to catch fish either,” he said.

sources: TheJakartaPost

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