WDC is an international leader in educating and exciting people of all ages about whales and dolphins, and this summer we were the proud recipients of the ASCOBANS Outreach and Education Award. With offices in five different countries and a visitor centre in Scotland, we reach a wide audience and carry out many different education initiatives. This is the 2nd blog in our Education Blog Series ‘Education with a Porpoise!’ – read on to learn more from Lorna at WDC’s Scottish Dolphin Centre!
I began working at WDC’s Scottish Dolphin Centre in 2012 as an education volunteer. Seven months into my placement I was offered the role of education officer and now, almost five years later, I am still happily running our education programme.
My work day varies a lot depending on what bookings we have and the time of year. Coming into winter now with the cold days and early nights my work tends to change from the hectic summer of delivering activities to hundreds of children! With the occasional offsite talk or workshop to a group or a school, most of the my time is spent in our submarine-like office (our office is literally one long corridor!), preparing for the next season, creating resources and activities for events such as our children’s holiday club next Easter and the next Moray Science Festival, where we will be running a themed workshop for schools all about ancient whales and dolphins!
After a nice Christmas break the task of hiring new residential volunteers start. Our team here at the Scottish Dolphin Centre is fairly small and each year we take on five or six residential volunteers who spend eight months working with us; two of whom help me to run our education programme.
Things really start getting busy for our small education team between Easter and summer with dozens of school groups visiting us at Spey Bay. Running outdoor activities with schools and groups is a lot of fun and it’s great to see children outside, exploring and enjoying nature. Thankfully Spey Bay is an excellent and beautiful place to do this.
The outdoor activities we offer vary quite a lot; from dolphin themed activities (naturally!) about communication or anatomy, to minibeasts and other wildlife here at Spey Bay. Also on offer are activities about camouflage and sound as well as plenty of arts and crafts to release the creativity in everyone. Some of my favourite activities to run are conservation themed; ways for everyone to help us to protect our marine life through things like beach cleans, raising awareness of captivity and learning about just how dangerous marine debris can be to our wildlife and how to help protect them from this.
Our work doesn’t stop there though! Trips to visit pupils in-school delivering interactive workshops and presentations are another aspect of our education work as well as the occasional visit to a lovely local community group. Off-site and on-site events also make up some of the work we do too.
Not every day is spent out and about though. There are always office days to plan and record everything we do. We are very grateful that our education work here is currently supported by Scottish Natural Heritage and the Gordon and Ena Baxter Foundation. Both organisations have generously supported our work for a number of years now and recording and reporting our work is essential to keep them up to date with what we are doing. Other office work includes creating new resources for events, schools and of course our children’s wildlife and environment themed holiday club. We like to make sure everything we offer is not only educational but a lot of fun too!
My favourite part of this job has to be working with so many different people both at the centre and at local groups and schools – particularly school pupils; you never know what questions children will ask next! From questions such as ‘Who would win in a fight a dolphin or a shark?’ (A dolphin I think!) To, ‘How do dolphins sleep?’ (With only one half of their brain at a time!), things are always interesting!
All of our education work aims to inspire and excite children and adults about the amazing wildlife on our doorstep, including the resident population of bottlenose dolphins that live off the east coast of Scotland. Hopefully they will come to care for them as much as we do and be willing to help us protect them.
If you would like to know more about the opportunities we offer and how you can get involved please email [email protected] or ring WDC’s Scottish Dolphin Centre on 01343 820 339.