Educating Disadvantaged Kids With ‘Chasing Coral’

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Grade 6 Science Advisor, Ma'am Manellii talks about climate change

Yesterday I screened the new environmental film Chasing Coral at the Tanza Elementary School in the Philippines. Coral reefs around the world are vanishing at an unprecedented rate and this important film follows a team of divers, photographers and scientists on a mission to discover why.

The Tanza Elementary School is situated in a rural area very close to the sea, making the film especially relevant to the students whose lives are closely connected to the ocean. When school Principal, Ma’am Frecie de Angel asked the children who liked to eat fish, every child in the room put up their hand. Asking again who lived near the sea, more than 300 hands shot up.

Ma'am Frecie, principal of Tanza Elementary School
Ma’am Frecie, Principal of Tanza Elementary School enthusiastically participated in the screening of Chasing Coral to her Grades 3, 4, 5 and 6 students.

The film is current, and documents a recent (2016) coral bleaching event on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. 29% of the corals across the entire reef died within a few short weeks. A rise in sea temperature of just 2ºC is catastrophic for marine life: the corals turn completely white and quickly die.

infographic from Chasing Coral

The film carries an essential message: if we don’t change our behaviour ALL of the world’s coral reefs will be completely gone within 30 years. And by our behaviour, I mean us humans, and how we impact our planet.

the children are delighed as a little turtle reaches the shore
The children are delighted as a little turtle reaches the sea and swims to the open ocean.

But despite these alarming events, Chasing Coral is not a finger-pointing, apocalyptic sermon. It’s a beautiful film and a celebration of the ocean and the amazing biodiversity hidden beneath the waves. The film’s creators have a special love of the ocean and the children of Tanza were delighted with their wonderful footage of sea turtles, clown fish (shouts of Nemo, Nemo, Nemo), eagle rays and sharks as well as the multicoloured and peculiar corals and polyps.

School Principal Ma'am Frecie explains the amount of coral being damaged
School Principal Ma’am Frecie get’s visual while explaining the declining coral reefs.

Chasing Coral is an opportunity to educate everyone (especially the children) about the importance of coral reefs and the impact and value they have on our everyday lives as well as share an important message of hope …

“It’s not too late for coral reefs…  indeed, for many other ecosystems that are facing challenges from climate change. It’s still possible to reduce the rate at which the climate is changing, and that’s within our power today.”
– Dr. Ove Hoegh-Guldberg

2. The Rainforests of the Sea. Why we need coral reefs.

It was wonderful to see teachers and students so engaged with the film. Science Advisor Ma’am Manelli (pictured below) is really eager to teach her students about global warming and climate change but finds it difficult to access quality resources. Teachers here in the Philippines don’t earn much but still have to pay for a lot of learning materials out of their own salaries.

At the same time kids miss a lot of school because they can’t afford uniforms, stationary or fares. So organising this film screening was more than sharing a message of global warming, it was also an opportunity to bring new teaching materials to disadvantaged kids.

Being a musician, I already own a lot of audio-visual gear and have a lot of experience organising events, so it was really easy for me facilitate the screening. The Tanza Elementary School is particularly special to me as I volunteered there in early 2014 after Typhoon Yolanda tore through the school grounds destroying classrooms, buildings and fencing, school equipment and textbooks. Climate change is very relevant and very real here.


If you haven’t seen Chasing Coral yet I encourage you to check it out on Netflix and learn more about our oceans and how we can protect them.

© 2017 Melinda J. Irvine

Melinda Irvine with some of the teachers, top students and the Principal of the Tanza Elementary School.
Here I am with some of the teachers, top students and the Principal of the Tanza Elementary School.

Chasing Coral Profile and Instagram

2 responses to “Educating Disadvantaged Kids With ‘Chasing Coral’”

  1. Sudhir Chauhan Avatar

    you are doing some wonderful work Melinda….. admire you for that……

    1. Melinda J. Irvine Avatar
      Melinda J. Irvine

      Thanks Sudhir, I appreciate that.

      I did give you a little shout out on Friday in our livestream but some of the footage was cut out due to latency.