The Smart Living course for grade 7s, which is sponsored by the City of Cape Town, is part of the Marine Science Academy at the Two Oceans Aquarium’s Environmental Education Centre. The goal of this free course is to improve students’ understanding of their eco-footprint in terms of the four Smart Living themes – water, waste, biodiversity and energy – and to have them share this knowledge with their peers through two environmental leadership activities.

The course was advertised to various schools in the Cape Town area and we asked grade 7 Natural Science teachers to promote the programme to their students. We received more than 160 applications, of which only 45 candidates could be selected to participate.

Every day from 27 to 30 June was dedicated to a theme, and each day started with exercises that helped us to ascertain what, if any, prior knowledge these students might have had so that we could facilitate a comprehensive understanding of new concepts.

Biodiversity

Day one started with the biodiversity lesson, which dealt with many biological and environmental concepts and had various practical activities, in which students were required to listen, interact, discuss, differentiate, analyse, and share their ideas before reaching their own conclusions. We discussed concepts including ecosystems, types of biodiversity, biotic and abiotic factors, and upwelling.

From left: Students sorting sweets during the diversity activity; and sorting items into the categories of biotic and abiotic. Photos by Anzio Abels

We then went on to introduce the students to the terms “endangered”, “endemic” and “extinct” by referring to local examples. Students were given the opportunity to practise their understanding of the terms by using Aquarium exhibits and signage to find the various animals in their respective ecosystems, as well as to ascertain their environmental importance and conservation status.

Day two started at the Green Point Park and Biodiversity Garden. The focus of this outing was to discuss the significance of, as well as the threats to, our biodiversity, and to introduce the students to examples of valuable and unique plants found in the Cape Floral Kingdom.

Energy

The energy programme kicked off with a see-saw activity to define “work” and “energy”. This led us to examine the concept of electricity and how it is generated. The students did a number of activities and were shown how generators work, as well as how forms of green energy (wind, wave and hydro) make use of the same movement mechanisms to generate electricity. We also looked at how various methods of electricity production impact on the natural environment.

Using a light box, we demonstrated how using energy saving light bulbs can and do save energy. The day’s programme concluded with a report back on energy saving practices.

Waste

The third day started with a visit to the Kraaifontein Integrated Waste Management Facility, where a site representative gave a presentation about the City of Cape Town’s waste management processes. The students were shown how the public drop-off facility works and how waste is processed.

From left: Students equipped in safety gear are given a tour of the facility, with a close look at how the Waste Plastic-to-Oil Pilot Project operates. Photos by Anzio Abels and Chanelle Naidoo

This excursion received high praise in the post-course evaluations!

We were also privileged to see the Waste Plastic-to-Oil Pilot Project, which was a great way to extend the lessons around energy. The main focus of the day was looking at what contributes to our waste and how waste is in turn impacting negatively on our biodiversity.

Water

On the last day, we discussed the properties of and processes related to water. Students conducted their own experiment to observe the density of water in order to better understand the properties of water, like how certain objects are able to float.

We continued with a presentation on wetlands: the importance of, benefits of and threats to this valuable ecosystem. The session ended with a presentation about water safety and distribution and, finally, about how we can save water.

Environmental leadership

After the final assessments, students were given their environmental leadership task. Each student had to decide what environmental change they would make in their communities and how they would put this into action. They also had to collect a week’s worth of their households’ recyclable waste and bring it with them on presentation day.

The students presented their environmental actions on 30 July. These included organising various cleanups, starting recycling programmes, raising awareness and making cost-effective energy and water saving changes at home. The participants then received their certificates as well as a reusable bag as a thanks for helping keep recyclable waste out of our landfills.

The Smart Living Course was once again a huge success. It was generously sponsored by the City Of Cape Town, which also supplied the Smart Living books for each participant. The City of Cape Town is also the sponsor of the Smart Living Challenge Zone at the Aquarium, which consists of four interactive digital installations that each addresses the sustainable management of energy, water, waste and biodiversity.

Feedback

We asked the students: Do you believe that this course has made you more interested in caring for the environment?

“Yes, after I heard and saw all about pollution in the sea, I have really noticed that we need to change our lifestyle very fast. I am a changed person who has learned a lot.”

“Yes, I was further inspired to care for other living things and I know that one person can make a difference.”

“Yes, because it has made everything clearer to me and I now see everything differently.”

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