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Regional MCEN Conference: Sharing fun and effective ways of teaching marine science to young learners

By Leila Nefdt, DST-NRF Intern at SAEON Egagasini Node/ UWC Student
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Members of the Western Cape Marine and Coastal Educators Network (MCEN) came together in November 2016 to participate in a regional conference that explored multifaceted teachings of marine science.

The event was hosted by the Shark Education Centre in Kalk Bay, under the banner of the Save Our Seas (SOS) Foundation.

Apart from SAEON’s Egagasini Node, organisations represented at the conference included the University of Cape Town (UCT), the World Wide Fund For Nature (WWF) South Africa, SeaSearch Africa, Two Oceans Aquarium and African Climate and Development Initiative (ACDI).

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The conference was hosted by the Shark Education Centre under the banner of the Save Our Seas Foundation

Watch and learn - Leila enjoys an informative tour around the Shark Education Centre

The array of informative talks ranged from tales of carbon atoms to using art to express the greater impacts of climate change. Some of the talks focused on cetaceans of South Africa and moving forward with the South African Sustainable Seafood Initiative (SASSI). The presenters shared fun and fascinating ways of teaching marine science to young learners.

My mentor, SAEON’s Thomas Mtontsi, explained to the delegates how taking school science on board marine research vessels would enhance the learners’ marine science learning experience. He provided the example of how the SEAmester programme on the RV SA Agulhas II, impacted the two high school learners that went aboard. Thomas explained that the programme not only gave the learners a practical sense of processing data and samples, but it also offered them an invaluable experience of going out to sea and networking with successful marine scientists.

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Thomas Mtontsi, Education Officer at SAEON’s Egagasini Node, takes a closer look at some of the content on display at the Shark Education Centre

Thomas explains to delegates how taking school science on board research vessels could enhance the learners’ marine science learning experience

As we walked down the Main Road to have lunch at Kalk Bay Harbour, we took the opportunity to network and slot in an informal Q&A session pertaining to the presenters’ talks. This was followed by an informative tour around the Shark Education Centre, where tools and content used in their education programmes were exhibited. It was inspiring to see the initiatives that the SOS Foundation has been involved with. They aim to connect the public to the marine environment through experiential education programmes that focus on sharks and local marine ecosystems in order to nurture ocean awareness and environmentally responsible actions.

It was a rewarding experience being in a space filled with people who are as passionate about marine education as I am, all wanting what is best for future generations and for the conservation of our oceans.

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