On Wednesday afternoon, the team welcomed a group of 35 children in collaboration with the NGO, ROAYA. The afternoon began with introductions and some information about the coming activities. During this time the children were asked what they already knew about marine conservation, The Red Sea, and coral reefs. We were impressed with the level of knowledge that the children offered. Following this, we played an ice-breaker where we went around the circle and said our names to the group. The children were also asked where they thought the team hailed from, where they replied the USA or England. Disappointingly though, no guesses for Scotland.

The group of children then received a presentation from some of the expedition members who gave an introduction to their projects, including what they hope to achieve in Egypt. The team also spoke about coral reef biology where coral expert Kris taught the children all about polyps, zooxanthellae and coral’s symbiotic relationship with algae. We handed out various examples of coral so that the children could see variations in the morphology and to have a look at the calyces which house the polyps.

After the children had the opportunity to ask the team questions, we played a game of coral reef happy families, which involved trying to make up six members of a category to complete a family. Categories included “yum-yums”, “ugly mug” and “hands off”.

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After a break for drinks and snacks, the children got involved in a full-scale board game. The premise of the board game was to roll the dice and move along the board to reach the reef. Players included members of the community who are connected to the marine environment such as divers, fishermen, tourists and coastguards.

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While moving along the board, players may encounter a hazard to which they have to think of a solution. Hazards included real-world threats to coral reefs such as dynamite fishing, pollution, and invasive species such as crown-of-thorns starfish. If a solution is not found to the problem encountered, a piece of the reef is removed. The players try to all reach the reef before it all disappears. The children seemed to thoroughly enjoy the game, which introduced concepts of threats and solutions in an informative and exciting way.

The evening was ended with a group photograph and a game of watermelon (very similar to splat back home). The Egypt team would like to thank ROAYA and Ali with their continued collaboration and efforts to inspire young minds. All of the team had a fantastic afternoon with the children and we hope that they enjoyed themselves, while learning about the underwater world and what they can do to maintain the beauty of the Red Sea.

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