ABU DHABI // Aiming to be an eco-warrior for her class at The Pearl Primary School in Abu Dhabi, Saoirse Murphy got a boost in her mission yesterday when she received a few tips to help protect the environment - from an octopus called Marmo.
Saoirse, 8, attended a conservation programme organised by Puma at the Volvo Ocean Race Destination Village. With her mother, Aoife, and brother Fionan, 5, Saoirse was among the first group of children to participate in the event.
The programme is fronted by Marmo, a red octopus mascot who made it his goal to teach humans how to look after the oceans when he discovered his home had been destroyed by a discarded fishing net.
"He is a really kind character," Saoirse said.
May, Marmo's human "best friend", read Marmo Saves Our Seas to the children. The book details the octopus's journey of discovery.
Teaching children not to throw rubbish into the sea is important, said Mrs Murphy, a classroom assistant at her daughter's school.
"I think a lot of children are brought up with maids who do everything for them. We need to reinforce children to tidy up after themselves."
Marmo is a fantastic character to help children care about the environment, said Helen Bone-Knell, a swimming teacher from Dubai.
"We need some serious education in Abu Dhabi and Dubai," she said. Her son, Oliver, 18 months, was also at the session. "People do not care for their environment, and I feel very strongly about that."
She said that although her 12-year-old son, Harry, would have found the book too simple, the message resonates regardless of age.
Having visited three of the 10 ports along the race course to spread his message, Marmo has received positive reactions from adults and children alike, said Kary Knight, an events operation manager for Puma.
"Everyone flocks to him. It's really just about making children aware on a basic level about the importance of keeping the ocean clean. It's very simple, but everyone could learn something from it."
Using a friendly character like the octopus, who cannot speak to humans, allows children to learn without making them feel like they are in a school environment, Ms Knight said.
Mrs Murphy said Marmo's presence had a big effect on Saoirse, who told a reporter that she had reprimanded her mother for tossing the tip of an ice cream cone out the window of her car.
"She's definitely aware of the environment."