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Inspiring passion for our oceans

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Piecing together the evidence puzzle to find out who had stolen the aquarium's feed.

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Excited and perhaps a little nervous, the learners get ready for bed in front of the predator exhibit.

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The Two Oceans Aquarium October 2012 Young Biologists.

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Young Biologist Emily Corkill (left) and Catherine Browne, DST-NRF Intern at the SAEON Egagasini Node discover some interesting creatures on the rocky shore.

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Senior educator Xavier Zylstra demonstrates the microscope exploration exhibit, where Young Biologists will be sharing information with the public.

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Hands-on learning - Young Biologists investigate and identify different organisms found living in a kelp holdfast.

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Young Biologists watch a penguin feed, an area they are likely to get involved in during their volunteering experience.

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Senior educator Xavier Zylstra leads the Young Biologists’ exploration of the sandy and rocky shores.

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By Catherine Browne, DST-NRF Intern, SAEON Egagasini Node

 

I have been fortunate to participate in a number of projects with the Two Oceans Aquarium Environmental Education Centre.

This has allowed me to see how other education programmes are organised and being run, and what they offer.

A night ‘under the sea’

The Two Oceans Aquarium hosts special sleep-over events offering interactive educational activities.

Learners get to spend a night ‘under the sea’, sleeping in front of the famous I&J predator tank. Not many learners can say that they spent a Friday evening sleeping with sharks or were ‘rocked’ to sleep watching the swell of the tanks gently sway back and forth.

I accompanied these lucky groups on two occasions. The learners ranged between grades 1 and 6, with a few parents, teachers, and grans joining in on the fun. Arriving equipped with sleeping gear, night bag, snacks and the odd mom or dad in tow, the youngsters excitedly entered the Two Oceans Aquarium to share in a very special and unique experience.

After a welcome and questions session, followed by supper, the group were split up into teams and set out to solve a mystery crime. Someone had stolen the aquarium’s feed and they needed help to figure out who it was.

The groups set out with clues to different areas of the aquarium that they had to find and answer questions in order to receive information to help them solve the case. With all the evidence collected, the puzzle was pieced together to determine the culprit.

The teams then used all the clues they collected along the way, and information they had gathered in the process, to put together short skits aimed at sharing an environmental message with the larger group.

This fun activity was followed by a screening of a film, ‘The Reef’ as the children settled down for the evening and enjoyed their treats before heading to bed for a night ‘under the sea’.

I thoroughly enjoyed assisting with these experiences. Seeing the sheer amazement, awe and excitement in young eyes is a heart-warming experience.

Why be a YB?

The Two Oceans Aquarium Environmental Education Centre, with the support of De Beers Marine, offers a Young Biologist course for learners interested in marine and coastal ecology during the October school holidays.

The course is offered at no charge to approximately 50 young people who are currently in Grade 10 and who may wish to pursue a career in marine science.

The course aims to increase the potential marine biologists’ understanding of freshwater and marine ecosystems, develop leadership qualities in young South Africans and inspire them to make use of their acquired knowledge within their communities.

During this year’s course, Young Biologists (YBs) participated in hands-on activities in the Aquarium Discovery Centre. They spent the weekend at Soetwater camp, getting to know each other and seeing some of their learning topics in situ.

The course follows a hands-on approach to the study of marine and terrestrial environments. It creates an opportunity to develop leadership and social skills, encourages students to pursue studies in marine or environmental sciences and trains students to volunteer Front of House and Behind the Scenes at the Two Oceans Aquarium.

Learners from schools around the peninsula were selected, mainly on the strength of their motivational letter asking to participate.

Involvement in the course includes classes run at the Two Oceans Aquarium, participation in the practical weekend camp and at least 30 hours of volunteer service at the aquarium once the course has been successfully completed. Most of this time is spent sharing information with visitors at the touch pools and microscope displays, with options to work behind the scenes becoming available later on.

The Young Biologist course was run over the first week of October. The course initially focused on covering content related to the Two Oceans Aquarium exhibits, understanding the different phyla represented, as well as procedures and expectations. The Young Biologists explored marine diversity through lectures, assessments, practicals and getting to know the aquarium exhibits.

A very busy beginning of the week with assessments of material learnt was followed by a tour behind the scenes, practising presenting front of house at the touch pool and microscope. Learners examined the creepy crawlies found living in a kelp holdfast, touched representative specimens, chatted to other volunteers, learnt about the Southern African Sustainable Seafood Initiative, made friends and became a part of the aquarium family.

The latter part of the week was spent at the Soetwater camp, where the group interacted, debated, enjoyed the sea air, and explored the rocky shores. The group hiked up to Slangkop, braved the cold waters learning and enjoying snorkelling and having fun together. Sports and various activities drew the group together, and taught life, leadership and communication skills in a fun and exciting way.

Why be a YB? Any student who has been involved in the Two Oceans Aquarium Young Biologist programme will tell you it is an amazing opportunity to learn and grow, to be inspired, to inspire, and to make friends; an eye-opening, passion-driving, dream-inspiring opportunity.

I wish to thank the Two Oceans Aquarium and SAEON Egagasini Node teams for having me participate in this course. I assisted the Two Ocean Aquarium team throughout the week, taught, marked assessments and shared with the YBs my experiences and an understanding of university degrees and marine research.

I wish the YBs the best of luck with their volunteer experiences and pursuit of further marine studies and careers. I also wish the staff of the Two Oceans Aquarium all the best in their continued efforts and hope to work with them again in future.

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