When in 2020 the pandemic closed borders, halted tourism, shut schools, forced people away from nature and locked millions of families at home, it also took the Innoceana team away from the sea for the first time in years.
This did not stop us, of course. The entire team started developing marine conservation webinars that we offered free of charge to people who wanted to connect with the sea from home. The reception was incredible, we reached more than a thousand people from all over the world.
After seeing that we had the capacity to reach so many people, we asked ourselves: how could we also reach children who are locked up at home, without going to school, far from nature and the sea and bored? Clearly, no child was going to sit down for 40 minutes to watch an online seminar, so we had to develop something that would entertain them as well as impact them.
It is well known that storytelling has great potential to create awareness and, especially in the little ones. Stories have the power to take the readers on a journey where they can identify with their characters and understand their experiences in a better way. This is how the idea of creating stories to raise awareness about the sea was born and we developed the Innotales project, innovative stories to show the wonders and threats of the marine world.
From the beginning, we wanted to use a digital format to make these stories more accessible, and instead of illustrations or drawings, we decided to use all the audiovisual material that the Innoceana team had been recording during hundreds of hours of underwater monitoring and studies. We found that underwater videos and photos would create the illusion of underwater travel much better.
This is how we created our first story, “A turtle named Raquel”, which tells the story of a green turtle that is born in the Caribbean of Costa Rica and travels to the Canary Islands in search of seagrass. In the digital story we decided to include an even more interactive factor, in which readers can also “choose their adventure”, selecting between different videos, images and stories while Raquel makes her journey. The story shows the important biodiversity that exists in seagrasses and exposes the dangers that threaten the marine life that lives there.
The book was a complete success. It was offered free of charge in Spanish and English to everyone to try to help, educate and entertain families who were at home due to the pandemic. The impact was very great, as it received a wave of positive comments, reaching more than 35,000 visits, in 70 different countries, appearing in podcasts, newspapers and in the news and even being shared by numerous organizations and educators who used the book as a tool for working with children.
Over time, when the pandemic subsided, we even had the opportunity to go personally to dozens of public schools and rural communities in both Spain and Costa Rica to tell the story to thousands of children. Going to these places to offer this educational storytelling workshop, and being able to personally see the excited children’s faces listening to Raquel’s story, singing with the whales and laughing with the garden eels has been one of the most rewarding experiences.
Very soon, we began to receive the attention of foundations and local governments who also wanted one of our interactive stories about the sea adapted to different needs and funding possibilities, and in less than a year and a half, 3 more Innotales were produced: “Los sebadales del Sur de Tenerife”, “Los Tesoros del Sebadal” and “Los Ángeles del Mar”, all available on the platform Innotales.
We are very excited as 2022 is the year that we will finally develop the first Innotales focused on Costa Rica. This is going to deal with the story of a hammerhead shark called Golfín, which is born in the Golfo Dulce, considered a nursery for sharks of this species, and which later travels through the Pacific of Costa Rica, passing through Caño Island, discovering all kinds of creatures, having thousands of adventures until they reach their final destination, Cocos Island, where they will meet thousands of sharks of the same species.
Innotales is one of the projects that has brought us the most joy in recent years, especially when we see the impact it has on children, who no longer want plastic straws so that Raquel the turtle does not choke, who are no longer scared of sharks because they know that they are cute, funny and adventurous and that they can’t wait to be old enough to dive in the sea so they can meet their favorite characters in person.