From 25 to 29 June 2018, a class of 51 grade 9 learners selected from across the Western Cape gave up a week of their school holidays to take part in the Marine Science Explorer course. Thanks to generous sponsorship from Averda, we were once again able to offer this opportunity to children from all walks of life for free, laying the foundation for a future career in ocean sciences. From biomimicry to climatology, let's take a look at all things ocean that this year's class got up to.
The course begins with some introductory classwork, introducing the key concepts of marine science and how the different schools of thought apply to the South African coastline. This foundational knowledge included lessons in the role organisms play in a balanced ecosystem and the types of body plans employed by animals - e.g. humans have bilateral symmetry (we are mirror images), but animals like sea stars often have pentameric (five-fold) radial bodies.
It was then time for some biochemistry! Looking at the chemical basis for most of the energy used by all life on earth - the sugars produced by photosynthesis in plants.
Allowing children to do their own experiments and draw their own conclusions is a big part of what we do - it is far easier to understand a concept if you've had the opportunity to figure out the "whys" yourself.
Using the Aquarium's animals as examples, lessons in evolution were demonstrated by comparing vertebrates (animals with spines). Learners looked at modern bony fishes with fully developed skeletons in comparison to cartilaginous fishes (sharks, rays and skates) who have no solid skeleton except their jawbones. These were both compared to hagfish - a "primitive" animal that has a spinal chord, but no jaw.
Later in the week, the Marine Science Explorers headed out to Milnerton Beach - time to investigate the physical changes that take place in coastal waters and sediments.
The learners followed the coast from the lagoon mouth at Lagoon Beach to the Milnerton Lighthouse. Along the way, they were instructed to collect water and sediment samples - which they would analyse back at the Aquarium.
Along the way, curious students asked many questions and teachers Anzio Abels and Chanelle Naidoo, as well as Deputy Head of Education Bianca Engel, were more than happy to encourage discussion and investigation of any odd beach debris found.
A beach walk is a really fun way to spend the morning - and the lovely Cape winter weather certainly kept everyone alert!
Observations that were made along the way were all recorded - the scientific investigations that the Marine Science Explorers made on the first day when looking at photosynthesis were an introduction to the scientific method that would be applied here for their final experimental interpretation. The lessons were being brought full circle.
Back at the Aquarium, there was a final morning of scientific enquiry and an assessment based on what had been learned throughout the weeks.
At the end of the course, each participating learner was given a certificate of completion, reflecting the average result of the assessments they completed throughout the week - all 51 of these children achieved scores to be proud of.
Thank for being a great class, and thank you again for making this all possible parents, Averda and our incredible teachers.
Ocean education for your kids
There are many ways your children can get involved in environmental education opportunities at the Aquarium. Here are a few of the most popular options:
- School classes, youth groups and other organisations can book a classroom visit that fits in with your curriculum:
- Pre-school: A wide range of interactive Puppet Stories, from I Love Turtles to a Water Cycle Adventure.
- Grade 1-3: Discover underwater wonders and learn about different kinds of fish.
- Grade 4-6: Fun lessons with topics from fish anatomy and marine conservation to the close relatives of sharks.
- Grade 7-9: Lessons from water conservation to rocky shore ecology.
- Grade 10-12: Exciting topics from sharks and ecotourism to biodiversity and anatomy.
- Individual children of all ages can take part in FREE courses from our Marine Science Academy:
- Grade 6: Become Junior Biologists and study marine life and conservation on our coast.
- Grade 7: Learn Smart Living and learn how our lives and the environment interact (next course's closing date on 27 July)
- Grade 8: Become a Marine Science Discoverer if you're in grade 8 and learn about careers in ocean science.
- Grade 9: Become Marine Science Explorers - time to get hands-on with ocean life.
- Grade 10: Apply for our flagship Young Biologist course, and jumpstart a marine career.
- Grade 11 & 12: FET Zoology and Oceanography courses - a stepping stone into marine science tertiary studies.
- If you can't get to the Aquarium, we'll come to you!
- A fully equipped mobile aquarium, Oceans in Motion, is on the road - bringing the ocean's wonders and lessons to previously disadvantages schools in the Cape Town area.
- The Smart Living outreach programme engages with learners on key environmental issues such as energy, water, waste and protecting biodiversity.
If you would like to make a booking for your class, get involved in one of the above courses or are an adult looking for training opportunities or to take part in our job shadowing programme, please visit our Environmental Education Centre portal for more information and the relevant contact details.