Oceans in Motion is an environmental education social responsibility initiative funded by the Two Oceans Aquarium, with the goal of reaching learners in schools and communities where the opportunity to visit the Aquarium or learn about the ocean first-hand may not arise. Working with the Western Cape Department of Education's district managers, Oceans in Motion is able to identify schools that would benefit from this programme and arrange visits - aiming to reach 200 children every school day, and able to cater for all curriculums from grade R to matric.
We followed Oceans in Motion to Lotus River Primary last week to see what the grade 4 and 5 Oceans in Motion lessons were all about.
Oceans in Motion lessons are presented by Two Oceans Aquarium Outreach Teacher Thabo Sabeko, who not only designs and delivers these unique classes, but is also responsible for the health and care of his animal assistants. Supporting Thabo are Administration Assistant Nicholas Stevens, who handles the indentification and scheduling of school visits, and Deputy Head of Education Xavier Zylstra, who assists Thabo on multi-day rural outreach projects.
When the Oceans in Motion mobile classroom arrives, the lesson begins, and learners are placed into small groups - each with their own table and "portable rockpool" with a few Aquarium critters inside it. These animals are instrumental in teaching lessons.
Thabo then begins his lesson - actively engaging the learners and encouraging them to take part in the lesson. What's the difference between the Atlantic and Indian Oceans? What is a habitat?
The lesson then progresses into detail about the rocky shorelines of South Africa. How are animals able to survive being battered in these rockpools? Children in higher grades are asked to think about the ecosystem that might be at work in these pools.
The first guest with a lesson to teach is the red sea star - with its flattened body, tube feet and tough skin, the kids are able to see its survival adaptations for themselves.
Up next is the Cape sea urchin. At first, its spines are intimidating, but the children soon realise that there is more to these animals upon closer inspection.
Finally, the children have the opportunity to look at sandy and plum sea anemones. In this example, the children can see first-hand how the anemone tries to latch onto their finger and tries to pull it to their mouth (don't worry - this is harmless to the finger and the anemone).
Once the learners have had the opportunity to examine these animals, it's time to discuss their roles in their habitat and how they are threatened by pollution. Plenty of questions come up: "Do people eat anemones?", "Can a starfish's leg grow back?" and "What do I do if I find an urchin on the beach?"
The full spectrum of reactions was visible on the children's faces - excitement to touch something new, fear of touching the sea star in case it moved or awe at the tube feet of the urchin. One thing was clear however - regardless of how the children reacted, they were connecting with the ocean, something that is often absent from their daily lives.
Thabo and the Oceans in Motion animals do their work with such passion and enthusiasm – thanks team!
The Oceans in Motion outreach programme is only possible thanks to the passionate and dedicated school teachers and principals who go the extra mile to give their learners every available opportunity to learn and grow. Thank you for allowing the Two Oceans Aquarium to help you nurture the next generation. Want us to visit your school?