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Marine and coastal educators share best practices in marine science engagement programmes

By Kogie Govender, Nozipiwo Hambaze and Thomas Mtontsi, SAEON
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Forty attendees from different organisations converged on the Tsitsikamma National Park, a picturesque forest and marine biome, for the 19th Marine and Coastal Educators Network (MCEN) conference.

Kogie Govender, Thomas Mtontsi, Nozipiwo Hambaze and Jennifer Mohale represented SAEON to showcase and share ideas about the marine science engagement programmes that SAEON undertakes.

Kogie Govender’s presentation, “All on Board”, looked at ways of turning the tide to create opportunities for inland learners to be involved in marine science education programmes through working with the various organisations that are part of MCEN. Nozipiwo Hambaze presented on “the influence of science camps in motivating learners to develop their own scientific inquiry projects”.

The Long-term Intertidal Monitoring through Participation, Evaluation and Training (LIMPET) group, which includes the SAEON Egagasini Node’s Science Engagement section, won the award for Best Presentation, which was collected by Anton Fortein (Centre for Conservation Education) and SAEON’s Thomas Mtontsi.

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Delegates at the 2019 National Marine and Coastal Educators Network Conference

Citizen science

A presentation on the toolkit for starting a citizen science project, which was implemented by South African National Parks (SANParks) scientists based in Knysna, highlighted how citizen scientists are playing a key role in helping reduce mortality of seahorses in Swartvlei Estuary and providing invaluable information on their distribution and habitat, aiding management of this iconic species.

Several organisations engaged in marine science education programmes shared their exciting activities in engaging workshops. An excellent workshop by Department of Forestry and Fisheries staff at Mossel Bay illustrated how transects on posters are used to introduce learners to marine invertebrates, identify the different species and calculate species diversity. This activity can be done prior to learners visiting a rocky shore or can be used for inland learners that do not have access to rocky shores.

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SAEON’s Thomas Mtontsi (right) participates in a wetland activity hosted by SANParks in Wilderness

Thomas Mtontsi, science engagement officer at SAEON’s Egagasini Node, chairs a session during the week-long conference

Citizen scientists are playing a key role in helping reduce mortality of seahorses in Swartvlei Estuary

Measuring impact

The importance of measuring the impact of educational programmes during contact with beneficiaries was reinforced through the presentation by Save our Seas staff members. They presented on the tools they use to develop tests prior to learners engaging in the programme, and tests after the programme to determine if learners have assimilated the content of the programme.

This was followed by a presentation on the importance of critical thinking in planning educational activities by staff from the National Zoological Gardens of South Africa.

Excursions

To complement the presentations and activities, delegates embarked on several excursions, which included a walk up to the suspension bridge at Tsitsikamma, visiting Monkeyland Primate Sanctuary and Birds of Eden, canoeing up the river at Wilderness and finally a self-guided tour through the Dias Museum and Aquarium in Mossel Bay.

As a member of the MCEN steering committee, SAEON's Thomas Mtontsi was asked to chair the programme on the fourth day. In its meeting, the committee resolved that the next annual national conference, which would mark the 20th anniversary of MCEN, would be hosted in Cape Town.

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