This multimedia, multifaceted communication initiative is an effort to promote protection of coral reefs while providing education about the coral reef, its inhabitants, and the water environment. Centring around a website, as well as printed playing cards and other materials, Magic Porthole is designed to engage children and adults in entertaining ways while challenging them to make discoveries about the world of coral reefs and other ocean life. Another goal is to encourage them to take action to help save these natural resources - from choices of seafood to eat, to reducing global climate change. Magic Porthole is a project of Horizon International, a not-for-profit international research, film production, and development organisation founded in 1976 and dedicated to furthering solutions to environmental, health, population, and development problems.
Edutainment is the core strategy shaping Magic Porthole's web-based and off-line offerings. In order to share basic information and encourage learning, Horizon International created a colourful and interactive website that enables children, youth, and adults to explore "the wonders of coral reefs" through news items, several video clips, a list of resources, and a photo gallery. For example, the News feature includes articles about coral reefs and oceans, such as about ocean sanctuaries and about plastics polluting the oceans.
The strategy of challenging visitors to this website through games and contests also shapes this approach to environmental protection. The Magic Porthole environment achievement contest offered awards such as the first prize, accommodation for a weeklong vacation to a coral reef with the winner and his or her family on a research vessel, contributed by Ocean Outreach Inc., a non-profit ocean education and outreach organisation. Online episodes, adventures, and games are designed to take players into the intricate lives of the creatures of the coral reefs, such as by exploring the symbiotic relationships between shrimp and goby fish.
This approach is also illustrated by Magic Porthole's "ecoknowledge card" series. Launched in December 2007 in advance of the International Year of the Reef (IYOR) 2008, two versions of the decks of cards, printed in the United States, are being sold by museums, aquaria, and a wide variety of outlets; they may also be purchased on the project website. These brightly coloured playing cards are designed to teach players of all ages about coral reef issues through what are intended to be intriguing, fun, photographic images of creatures such as the grouper, boxing crab, clownfish, emperor fish, and moray eel. These images are artistically rendered, and were chosen by coral reef experts with additional input about learning-type role models. One version of the cards has all the same backs so they can be used to play favourite card games. Another version has backs with information about the species so they can be used for memory games and flash cards.
Much of the organisation's work in recent years has been focused on the 2012 book "Water and Sanitation Related Diseases and the Environment: Challenges, Interventions and Preventive Measures" in which oceans are addressed in many of its chapters.
In the resources described above, one can learn, for example, that coral reefs are home to an estimated 25% of all marine species and that the impairment of the reefs causes fish, which are a part of many people's everyday diet, to be lost.
IYOR is described as "a worldwide campaign to raise awareness about the value and importance of coral reefs and threats to their sustainability, and to motivate people to take action to protect them."
Headquartered at Yale University in the United States (USA), with an office in Peru, Horizon International produces internationally broadcast television programmes (click here for access). In addition, the organisation has developed a Solutions website (with the collaboration of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), Yale University, and Horizon colleagues at Harvard University) that provides answers to problems in the interconnected areas of the environment, health, population, and development. This site features case studies (peer-reviewed), articles, and exhibits. This site features case studies (peer-reviewed), articles, and exhibits. The Horizon Solutions Site for Kids of All Ages is an interactive, multimedia feature of the Solutions Site. Please see also this YouTube channel.
Museums, aquariums, and other entities are collaborating, including the American Museum of Natural History, Environmental Defense (ED) Oceans Alive project, Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, Museum of Science-Boston, The National Wildlife Federation (NWF), Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the Smithsonian Institution Ocean Hall and Ocean Portal, the Field Museum, Monterey Aquarium, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration National Ocean Service.
Emails from Janine Selendy to The Communication Initiative on January 23 2008, April 18 2008, and October 27 2015; "Coral Reef Playing Cards Launched In Advance of International Year of the Reef (IYOR)", Horizon Solutions, Dec 6 2007; and the Magic Porthole website, January 23 2008 and October 28 2015. Image credit: Eve Heaton