youthsailing – Schools from Ynys Môn (Isle of Anglesey) and Gwynedd have won praise from Welsh Government member Ieuan Wyn Jones for spearheading a revolutionary approach to education, which makes the marine environment a key part of learning.
At the Ysgol y Môr (School of the Sea) Race Day 2012, at the Plas Menai National Watersports Centre near Caernarfon, more than 200 children from 13 local schools demonstrated how they have developed their knowledge of subjects ranging from renewable energy technology to marine biology, as well as watersport skills, by taking part in the first initiative of its kind in the UK, being piloted over three years.
Mr Wyn Jones said: "I am very impressed with this pilot project. The schools have clearly got a great deal out of it and I want to work with the Ysgol y Môr team to see how we can develop it further."
Sponsored by nuclear power technology specialists EnergySolutions, who own Magnox Ltd, the day featured an inter-schools regatta of sailing, kayaking and windsurfing races: a marine renewables regatta, run by Engineering Your Future, showcasing pupils' work on solar powered boats, wind and water turbines, and fuel cell technology, culminating in a solar boat race; and a Classe de Mer (Classroom of the Sea) display, showcasing pupils' work on marine wildlife, conservation, maritime culture, history and landmarks on the Menai Strait, ocean sciences, coastal living and dune formation, art and literature.
The event also hosted an Ysgol y Môr Conference for 100 delegates, with Ieuan Wyn Jones AM as keynote speaker, a video about Nautisme en Finistere (Brittany's equivalent of Ysgol y Môr), and presentations by the region's head teachers and an independent assessor on the value of the programme.
Dave Callen, EnergySolutions' Engineering Manager at Magnox Wylfa Power Station, said: "Education is one of the keys to North West Wales' economic and cultural sustainability – and so are the region's marine resources, including energy. We are delighted to sponsor this inspiring event."
Hundreds of youngsters are learning subjects including renewable energy technologies and watersports.
Jon Philips, Director of Stakeholder Relations for the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA), one of the principal funders of the project, said: "The NDA is delighted to have supported this programme, which we hope will inspire future generations to consider the exciting employment and business opportunities associated with the coastal environment – creating an even more vibrant and exciting place to live and work."
Ysgol y Môr is the first initiative in the UK to use the marine environment as part of mainstream education.
It is modelled on a 30+ year educational programme in Brittany, which has been the driving force behind the growth of the region's highly successful marine industry. It has created major economic development and sustainable jobs, which have helped safeguard the Breton language and culture.
Ysgol y Môr is being piloted in the counties of Gwynedd and Ynys Môn. In the first phase, spanning three years, 1440 pupils from 16 schools are learning watersports skills. 1170 pupils are being taught a range of existing curriculum subjects in classes de mer ('classrooms of the sea'), across both counties.
The launch of Ysgol y Môr followed more than three years of development by North Wales Watersports and its partners. This included a fact finding mission for North Wales educationalists and local authority representatives in 2007 to Brittany, which has 20 dedicated 'classrooms of the sea' centres that have trained thousands of pupils.
The Ysgol y Môr programme is designed as a template for a new national approach to education, based on involving pupils more closely with their local environments, including mountains, forests and urban areas.