During the 2017 April school holidays, the Two Oceans Aquarium hosted the year's first Young Biologist course for high school learners. Thanks to the sponsorship of I&J, 53 environmentally passionate learners from schools all over the Western Cape were able to be a part of our Marine Sciences Academy, and to learn-by-doing as volunteer presenters at our exhibits.
An introduction to working at the Aquarium
The first phase of this volunteer programme was a four-day theory course, taking learners through the basics. Upon arrival, the nervous and excited learners were introduced to the teachers and volunteer assistants, who welcomed them and briefed them on their expectations.
The theory introduced the learners to a wide range of topics in marine biology, but focused mainly on aspects specific to the Touch Pool and Microscope Exhibits at the Aquarium.
These exhibits are the ones we would be leaving in their care after the completion of the course.
Several theoretical modules were also covered: Marine sciences, career guidance, animal rehabilitation, and an introduction to biomimicry which covers the ways that technology takes inspiration from nature.
Learners were also taught about scientific research and how to interpret the latest research articles.
Hands-on with sea life
The lessons' content was hands-on, with introductions to as many of our plants and animals as possible, as well as the opportunity to interact with live molluscs and other species one might encounter on a beach.
Another enjoyable lesson was one in which they dissected fresh kelp holdfasts, revealing the various animals hiding in them.
Further enrichment included guided tours of the Aquarium, presented by our aquarists – many of whom had previously been Young Biologists.
This was a great chance for these ocean-minded children to get some insight into possible careers for them.
Off to camp
After the theory, we headed to Soetwater campsite for a fun and relaxed camp, where the learners had the chance to put their new knowledge into practice.
Many fun activities took place, such as a hike onto the mountain slopes of Slangkop, to study fynbos and enjoy the fantastic views. Other activities included a beach cleanup, a silent vigil as the sun set, a team-building potjiekos competition and a blind-folded trail.
There was also a fun-filled evening of performances presented by the learners, with acts portraying some of the lessons they had learned. It was most entertaining!
Our Young Biologists have returned to school for a very busy second term. Thirty five of them have chosen to remain volunteers at the Aquarium, introducing our visitors to the wonders of our Touch Pool and Microscope Exhibits.
We are thrilled to be a part of these young individuals' lives and sincerely hope to be able to continue promoting the love and care of our environment through education. We are most grateful for the generous sponsorship by I&J, which enables us to attract such passionate young people and offer this valuable experience to them.
Want to get involved? Learn more about becoming one of the next generation of Two Oceans Aquarium Volunteers.