Cromer Shoal Chalk Beds inspires classroom learning

Date posted: 2 May 2019

Norfolk’s Marine Conservation Zone brought to life with salty tales and beach trips

Children from a Norfolk primary school have been learning about marine protection on their doorstep after their teacher was inspired by a community workshop looking at the role of the Cromer Shoal Chalk Beds Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ) locally.

Cromer Shoals school survey

The workshop, held last Autumn in Trimingham, was run by Alice Tebb and Hilary Cox MBE from the Agents of Change project and was attended by Jenny Lumb, a year 3 and 4 teacher at Mundesley Junior School. The aim was to find ways that the community and local area can benefit from having the MCZ on its doorstep and how local people might support it.

Known to local fishermen as the ‘chalk bed’, Cromer Shoal is thought to be Europe’s most extensive chalk reef – it stretches for more than 30km along the coast. Divers from the MCS-led national volunteer dive project, Seasearch, have recorded more than 120 species of seaweed and other plants on the shoals and more than 350 species of fish and invertebrates. The area has been a Marine Conservation Zone since 2016.

Jenny Lumb, created a number of themed lessons based around the Cromer Shoal Chalk Beds MCZ for children in two classes at Mundesley Junior School. They visited Sheringham beach with National Trust Learning Officer, Rob Coleman, where they dug for lug worms and went rock pooling. Rob demonstrated a push net for catching shrimp, the children saw a live plaice as well as learning about local marine wildlife.

“It has been great to engage the children in marine environmental issues and help them realise that their actions can affect the sea near them as well as the whales and turtles they have seen in the media,” said Jenny Lumb. “So many of the children and their families - and us teachers! - were unaware that there was such a special Marine Conservation Zone on our doorstep before we started the project.”

Sheringham fisherman, Jim Lingwood and retired Cromer fisherman, William Cox MBE went into the school to introduce the children to local fishing methods and what it’s like to be a fisherman. Jim showed the children what fishing gear looked like and how it worked whilst William strung netting to a crab and lobster pot (called a parlour pot) and told the children stories of local fishing history. Fishing is an important part of local culture and history. It was also a great opportunity for the children to appreciate where food comes from and to support the local fishing industry.

Jim Lingwood got involved with the children in a question and answer session: “I’d ask them things like ‘what do you think I do?’ and ‘how do you think I go out to sea?’ They get really into it. One lad asked if I had ever caught a shark. I said I’d seen a whale but I’ve never caught a big shark! I feel they came away understanding a little bit more about their local small-scale fishing industry.”

The children learned about how they could be ocean-friendly by going out on a beach clean with 2018 MCS Volunteer of the Year, Michelle ‘Shell’ Duddy, who lives in Mundesley and regularly runs four other beach cleans in Norfolk.

Hilary Cox from the Agents of Change project also went into Mundesley Junior School to explain to the children why Cromer Shoal Chalk Beds MCZ is such a positive thing for the area.

“This is a truly exciting project to enable schools to integrate with local issues and encourage everyone to learn more about what lies just beneath the waves on our shoreline,” said Hilary Cox.

As well as writing thank-you letters to all the experts, crucially, they children wrote letters to their parents using persuasive writing to encourage them to use less plastic. As part of their maths lesson, they had to survey their parents to ask them what they knew about the MCZ and discovered only 16% had heard of it!

The Agents of Change project is keen to hear from local teachers, educators and/ or parents interested in getting the Cromer Shoal Chalk Beds MCZ, local fishermen, fishing culture and the marine environment into local schools.


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