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.

The first group of Young Biologist gather around the Touch Pool - some of them may have the opportunity to take charge of this exhibit.

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.

Every little organism is a treasure; by understanding them we can fully appreciate their value.
An introductory hello in front of the I&J Ocean Exhibit. In addition to being long-standing partners of ours, I&J also made this free course possible

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. 

The Young Biologists have a chance to learn about our exhibits, like the Microscope Exhibit, from Senior Teacher Xavier Zylstra

These exhibits are the ones we would be leaving in their care after the completion of the course.

A lesson on how to present at the Microscope Exhibit

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.

Before the learners can get their hands dirty, some theory is necessary.

Learners were also taught about scientific research and how to interpret the latest research articles.

Understanding anatomy is central to an Aquarium volunteer's work.

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.

For many learners this is the first time they are able to inspect living sea creatures and plants
We believe in hands-on learning. This northern rockhopper penguin is helping us educate the next generation of South Africans.

Another enjoyable lesson was one in which they dissected fresh kelp holdfasts, revealing the various animals hiding in them.

Dissecting this kelp holdfast gives these learners a chance to see the tiny intricacies of the ecosystem it contains.

Further enrichment included guided tours of the Aquarium, presented by our aquarists – many of whom had previously been Young Biologists.

Aquarists give eager learners a look at the work happening behind the scenes at the Aquarium 

This was a great chance for these ocean-minded children to get some insight into possible careers for them.

Insight into all the intricate veterinary work we do

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.

These learners are finding - and identifiying - new wonders on the rocky shore; here assisted by Deputy Head of Education Biance Engel
Outreach Teacher Anzio Abels shows off a different angle 

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.

The Young Biologists near the pinnacle of Slangkop.

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! 

A little team-building really helps to remind all that saving the planet is a group effort, and that they get to play a role in that.

Saying goodbye

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.

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