Philippe Duflot

© G.Bounaud/Tara Expéditions


School mediator

“Learning is a constant, and transmission of knowledge is a necessary pleasure”

Philippe Duflot is 63 years old. He’s been retired for 3 years, after a career primarily in the commercial world. Since his retirement, he’s been a volunteer, teaching children what life, school and education gave him : love of reading, openness and respect for others. He regularly reads Celtic stories in classrooms, and talks to students about Celtic culture. Since early November, he’s been leading school visits in the exhibit and aboard Tara.

How did you get to know about Tara?

My first encounter with Tara was watching a movie about the Arctic drift at the Cité de la Voile Eric Tabarly in Lorient. After seeing this film, my sons (now 14 and 11 years old) registered on the Tara Junior website. Then we crossed Tara’s route during her Paris stopover in 2008, and again in Lorient, since we spend our holidays in that region. Watching the TV program Thalassa, we also followed the journey of Tara Oceans. So naturally when Tara came to Paris this year, in line with the work I’m doing in schools, I contacted Xavier Bougeard – in charge of the educational outreach program – to offer my help.

What is your role aboard Tara in Paris?

Xavier asked me to be one of the guides for groups of children who visit the boat. My role is to help the children discover the schooner – especially life on board, the importance of Tara’s research work, the values ​prevailing on board (cooperation, diversity, openness, team spirit), and the scientific aspect of Tara’s mission.

What motivates you to be a volunteer?

My motivations are simple, and were encouraged by the Tara team’s welcome, their enthusiasm and motivation. Learning is a constant, and transmitting knowledge, in particular to children, is a real pleasure.

How many children have you guided aboard Tara?

Up to now I’ve accompanied more than 85 classes – nearly 2 800 children of different backgrounds and ages, from kindergarten to high school students.

What takes place during a tour?

For each visit we try to adapt the message, and at best, share a magical moment of learning and discovery. For me the tour is structured around several points:

* Briefly introducing the boat, its characteristics (propulsion, dimensions, form, etc.) and history (the name Tara, the different owners)
* Explaining the purpose of work done on the boat (definition of plankton, its role and importance in our life, and its evolution).
* Explaining the different equipment needed to collect and conserve plankton (nets, rosette, wet lab, etc.)
* Emphasizing that the boat is only part of the work done (number of scientists on board and in associated laboratories around the world; importance of discoveries yet to be made; openness and diversity of the scientific world; logistics required to accomplish this work)
*Visiting the boat’s interior where it’s easy to explain life on board, with the warm complicity of  Florence the cook, or other crew members who add interesting details and anecdotes.

What do children remember from their visit?

For children (and also for the adults who accompany them) it’s a real discovery of the space and organization of life on board. Every child has a different feeling – most have never been aboard a boat, and Tara is truly unique. It’s clear that being on the schooner, and sitting for a while in the main cabin is a source of dreams, pleasure and desire.

For many, the explanation of plankton (composition) and its role (link in the food chain and provider of oxygen) is a magical discovery. The photos of plankton shown in the dry lab are a poetic and sometimes mysterious illustration that reinforce their interest.

What impresses you the most?

What’s very surprising, and a source of real satisfaction and pleasure, is that so many children leave the boat saying they would like to voyage with us and want to become scientists so they can embark aboard Tara.