OUR sea life is extraordinary but it can be difficult to see just how wonderful the animal and plants that live off our coast are, especially for children who have limited access to these habitats.

So, how do you bring the wonder of the sea to children, where they swim with jellyfish and seahorses, through sea grass meadows?

Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust has found the answer by recently launching ‘Undersea Explorers’, which transforms swimming pools into virtual sea environments to teach children about what lives in the sea.

In a typical Undersea Explorers session children aged between seven and 11 years are taught how to snorkel in a swimming pool, which contains lots of life-like artificial props of marine plants and animals.

Examples of the props include kelp, jellyfish and a seahorse in a seagrass meadow, crabs and starfish. The wildlife trust’s education staff lead children on a snorkel safari through the pool to see what they can spot. This is followed up with sea-themed games such as a litter pick relay to educate children about marine wildlife and conservation issues.

Project officer Polly Whyte says: “It is challenging to show children what amazing plants and animals live off our coast, but this new activity does just that.

“Undersea Explorers not only raises awareness about the marine life living in our seas but also teaches children snorkel skills and boosts their confidence in the water.”

Undersea Explor-ers sessions are being run all over Hampshire with school groups and youth groups. There are also public sessions, which anyone can book their child on to. Children can participate whatever their swimming ability, as sessions are tailored for each group. The next public session is on August 1 at Lord Wandsworth College near Hook.

Feedback from the sessions so far has been extremely positive, from the children, parents and teachers. Undersea Explorers sessions are currently available free of charge but donations are always welcomed to help the trust continue the activity in the future.

Undersea Explorers was originally developed by Yorkshire Wildlife Trust and was launched in Hampshire at Easter thanks to funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Belsize Charitable Trust No.1.

These pool sessions are just one element of the trust’s marine education work. Its outreach programme also offers schools sea-themed assemblies and trips to the coast. In addition it has marine loan kits, which teachers and youth groups can borrow and it runs marine training courses for adults and education providers.

How to take part

If you would like more information or want to take part in Undersea Explorers contact Polly Whyte, Making Waves project officer. Email Polly.Whyte@hiwwt.org.uk or telephone 01489 774426. Further information about the trust’s marine education work can be found online at makingwavesproject.org.uk.