THE United Nations Caribbean Environment Programme (CEP) has launched its new online Kids Page, designed to build knowledge about coastal and marine resources among its website's young visitors.
The move is in line with the objective of the CEP Sub-programme on Communication, Education, Training, and Awareness (CETA) to support public awareness by demonstrating the value of these resources, which are necessary for development.
"The website had originally featured a section dedicated to children called the 'Children's Corner'. However, to reflect new website technology and advanced learning aids, CETA decided on a change which would be more interactive, educational and fun -- the CEP Kids Page," said Chrishane Williams, team assistant for the CETA Sub-Programme.
The official site launch, which has been in the works since 2010, took place on the UNEP CEP website www.cep.unep.org on September 15 -- International Coastal Clean-up Day.
"As CEP continues to promote the sustainable development of the Caribbean Sea, one of the primary emphases is the need to protect coastal and marine biodiversity and to control, prevent and reduce marine pollution," said Williams. "The CEP Kids Page identifies several issues relating to the endangerment of our marine resources and thus connects beautifully with International Coastal Clean-up Day objective as a collective effort to reduce threats to human life, coastal economies, and marine life."
"Moreover, it raises an awareness of the need to change our attitudes and behavior so that we can become environment stewards from an early age," she explained.
The revised website represents the collaborative efforts of CEP consultants with input from staff and technical focal points from the CEP member countries.
Chris Corbin, officer in charge of the CETA Sub-Programme, has said there is no question of the value of having a kid-friendly space on their website.
"The core values are education and the raising of awareness. A marine environmental kid-friendly website enables youth to develop a better understanding of marine environmental issues and easily relate to them. It emphasises the benefits we derive from a healthy marine environment and the problems caused by an unhealthy one," he said.
"It also addresses the need to motivate environmental stewards and serves as an eye-opener to the reality that there is a role that especially the youth can play in protecting our environment for the future. Moreover, the lessons that kids learn at such an early age become lifelong lessons for environmental sustainability and also an avenue where adults can be educated by our youth," Corbin added.
CEP now hopes to be able to expand the outreach of information in addressing specific marine environmental issues by starting with children and young people.
"Much of the jargon is very technical in nature and the kid's website attempts to convey a message through visual images and a range of fun, interactive activities," noted Corbin.
The cost to get the site done has been "most costly through research, planning and implementing", according to Corbin.
"There was a great need for review and input from scientists as well as young people to ensure that the site would be effective in its purpose," he added.
The site is to be marketed locally and regionally through the CEP website banner and news pages... government ministries, letters to schools, mailing lists, meetings, workshops, social networks, such as the CEP Facebook and Twitter pages, as well as through the media, presentations at outreach activities and commemorative days.
Direct access to the site is available through the CEP homepage via http://cep.unep.org/childrens-corner.
Among other things, the Kids Page offers interactive activities designed to engage the young visitor on marine pollution, biodiversity and environmental education. It also offers games, e-colouring, e-books, information on biodiversity, pollution, as well as a resource area which leads to other sources of children's environmental activities.
There is, too, an activity which after completion generates a certificate. "We plan to develop an interactive forum where kids can also post their experiences and links to other environmental learning sites," said Corbin.
Later, he said, there are plans to "expand the website to include an even more interactive game which may feature environmental efforts, project and activities within the wider Caribbean region".
"In this phase two of the website, kids will explore more environmental issues, a wider range of species, and have the opportunity to virtually explore their natural environments from island to island with popular advocates for marine protection; however, this is still in the planning stage," Corbin noted.
— Panos Caribbean