The Aquarium has, for many years, offered a huge variety of educational classes to school children of all ages. But what about schools that want to take part in these lessons, but are unable to get to the Aquarium? We can bring the marine classroom to a beach near you!

There's no better way to learn than by getting hands-on with nature's wonders.

Our Rocky Shore Ecology lesson introduces learners to animals and plants found in rocky coastal ecosystems. It also gives children a chance to investigate factors that influence the distribution of species on our shores and the interactions between the living and non-living parts of our environment.

We tailor each lesson to suit the needs of your class's curriculum - we have a world-class team of educators that are up for any challenge! More information about how your school can sign up for the Rocky Shores lesson is provided at the end of this post.

This sure beats the classroom!

What do the kids get up to?

We joined Holy Cross Sisters' Primary School for a morning exploring the rocky coast of Big Bay - let's see what the grade 4s learned!

A few days before the Grade 4's trip to the coast, they were visited by the Oceans in Motion mobile aquarium and a few of our educators who taught the children about the animals that inhabit our shores, with both live animals, sea plants and skeletons. The kids were then given the checklist they would be using later in the week for their beach visit - so that they would know exactly what to be on the lookout for.

A tiny sea cucumber - most people would never recognise this animal without the introductory lesson.

When the classes arrived at Big Bay, they were split up into small groups - each partnered with an Aquarium intern or educators and their own teachers. These groups then worked together to explore the rockpools of this short stretch of coastline. They collected any interesting specimens they discovered to share with the rest of the group later.

Many of the kids had visited this beach before and were amazed by the huge numbers of animals (like everyone's favourite cushion starfish) that they had simply overlooked before.

The tiny dwarf cushion-stars (Parvulastra exigua) quickly became the childrens' favourite animal. These little animals feed on the algae covering rocks.
We found something!

By exploring the rock pools, the children were able to put the lessons they learned in the classroom into practice in reality. "Look, the anemones are covering themselves in sand for camouflage!" "The klipfish are scared of seagulls, so are probably hiding in the shady spots!"

This three-spot swimming crab (Ovalipes trimaculatus) buried itself in the sand to hide from predators - such as the seagulls and the children.
The barehead goby (Caffrogobius nudiceps) is also a rockpool dweller, but uses its colouring to blend into the sand.

With all the groups coming together the interesting and more unusual creature and plants found were shown to the whole group.

Educator Bianca Engel shows the learners a dissected redbait (Pyura stolonifera), provided by local fishermen, showing the children how sea squirts, a primitive animal, feed - and how "redbait" got its name.
How many times have you seen a three-spot swimming crab up close? These are ones whose carapaces are often found on beaches around Cape Town.

Looking at all these animals together, it is easy to see how complex even an ecosystem right on our doorstep can be. Even the pesky seagulls circling the class were a vital part of that system.

Even the common Hartlaub's gull is a vital part of this beach's ecosystem.
These tiny grass klipfishes  (Pavoclinus graminis) are "cryptic", meaning they adjust their colour to blend perfectly with the surrounding sea lettuce.

Our incredible animal volunteers were then swiftly released unharmed back into the rockpools to resume their lives in the wild.

This group of learners found and invasive alien species, a European green shore crab (Carcinus maenas). Although an alien, it is still part of the ecosystem.

By this point, many of the kids had noticed that the rocks, water, sand and sunlight weren't the only non-living components of the ecosystem - there was a lot of manmade plastic pollution.

The children were taught about the "Dirty Dozen", the 12 items most commonly found littered on beaches in South Africa. Each group was quickly sent out to try and find one of each of these items in as quick a time as possible!

Bianca lists the "Dirty Dozen" plastic pollutants and challenges the learners to collect as many as they can off of this stretch of beach.

Cigarette butts and single-use drinking straws were the two most common plastic litter items on this stretch of beach!

How you can book a lesson for your school:

School groups can book any one of a large number of lessons at the Aquarium's Environmental Education Centre. From 

If you would like the Aquarium's education team to bring the Rocky Shores lesson to a spot near you, you can arrange a booking by contacting Carrin. Please be aware that these lessons are only possible during low tides, so contact the Aquarium at least a month in advance so that a suitable date can be found to give your learners the best possible experience.

If you are a teacher from a school that is unable to afford the expenses associated with an Aquarium visit, or the Rocky Shore Ecology lesson, feel free to get in touch with our incredible outreach team - the Oceans in Motion and Smart Living outreach vans are on the road visiting schools every day, yours could be next!


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