Conservation through Education: Maša International Kindergarten

Our Montenegro Dolphin Research interns had a brilliant morning last week in Podgorica running an interactive session on Montenegro’s ceatceans with children at the Maša International Kindergarten! 

It’s an exciting (if slightly daunting!) task to step into a room full of children with the idea of introducing them to conservation, but we could not have hoped for a better audience than the wonderful class at Maša Internationl Kindergarten. The whole group was already familiar with dolphins and whales, taking the time to teach our team the Serbian terms for whale (“kut”) and dolphin (“delfin”), and were delighted to discover just how many of them live within kilometers of their kindergarten! 

In Montenegrin waters there are 4 species of dolphin and two species of whale. We introduced each species with pictures and key facts, eventually playing a game in which the class was asked to guess whether our ‘fun facts’ referred to whales or dolphins. Once they had fully understood the differences between the two, we listened to recordings of dolphin clicks and whale calls. By listening to the sounds of cetaceans communicating they understood that these animals, like them, have friends that they communicate with and that loud, external noises can interrupt these important channels. 

As in our presentations for older students, we place a strong focus on the effects of plastic pollution and overconsumption on marine life. At DMAD we believe that conservation needs to come into every aspect of life, and that no one is too young to grasp the importance of the impact that they personally can have on the world. In the case of young children, we often find that lessons learned in school quickly make their way into the consciousness of parents and other adults as their children pass on their knowledge outside of school. 

With this in mind, we spent the second half of our presentation talking about the presence of litter and plastic in Montenegro’s oceans. We showed the children photographs from our recent beach clean of Maljevik Plaza in Sutomore organized by NVO Naša Akcija and asked them how they thought we could make the beaches a cleaner, safer environment for humans and cetaceans – and everything in between – in the future. Their answers were varied, but all agreed that putting our rubbish in the garbage – and not simply dropping it on the ground – was key. 

When working in conservation it’s easy to focus on the negatives and difficulties we face in our attempts to protect the ocean. Spending the morning with such an enthusiastic and energetic group of budding conservationists reminded us that there is plenty of hope for the welfare of dolphins and whales! 

We would like to extend a massive thank you to the staff at Maša for hosting us, and especially to the children for being a wonderful audience, and teaching us a few things too!