You may already know that the Two Oceans Aquarium Environmental Education Centre hosts thousands of school groups every year at our Discovery Centres, as well as hundreds of budding marine biologists who pursue their sea dreams when they take part in our free extracurricular Marine Sciences Academy enrichment courses. But you might not know that our education endeavours also entail prolific outreach work: we have travelling puppet shows and two travelling outreach programmes – the Oceans in Motion and the Smart Living vehicles – which visit schools that are unable to visit us. This helps add another few thousand faces and hearts to those reached by our passionate education team at the Aquarium every year.
In May 2017, the Aquarium’s Environmental Education Outreach Programme received a generous helping hand from SPAR Western Cape, who sponsored a visit to five schools in the Overberg region of the Western Cape. It was part of the annual Penguin Promises Waddle for a Week campaign (a PAAZA, SAAMBR and Two Oceans Aquarium initiative), which sees 16 penguin lovers from all walks of life “waddle” 120km along the coast from Gansbaai to Simon’s Town to raise awareness for the endangered African penguin, and the planet.
SPAR Western Cape already sponsors the Seal Platform outside the Aquarium, which is where we assist the Cape fur seals at the V&A Waterfront that have become entangled in marine debris like discarded fishing line. And, with their “Our Plastic, Our Problem” campaign, SPAR Western Cape is stepping up to the challenge to help South Africa Rethink the Bag, too. Through a bag-swap initiative last year, SPAR Western Cape removed a whopping 111 120 plastic shopping bags from the environment. They aim to repeat and better the effort this year in July – watch this space for details.
Then, SPAR Western Cape took another amazing step by making it possible for us to visit schools along the #Waddle2017 route between 8 and 13 May 2017 and so allowed us to add a brand new component to the Waddle campaign, which celebrated its seventh iteration this year. “Engaging with enthusiastic learners along the way has always been a highlight for the Waddle team and, this year, being able to deploy the Two Oceans Aquarium outreach programmes in support of the Waddle served to amplify our call to all to take action,” says Two Oceans Aquarium Environmental Campaigner and Waddle co-organiser Hayley McLellan.
Thanks to SPAR Western Cape’s sponsorship, three of our educators were able to reach 1 605 schoolgoing children at five schools: Gansbaai Primary (Gansbaai), Die Bron Primary and Okkie Smuts Primary (Stanford), Zwelihle Primary (Hermanus), and Gordon’s Bay Primary (Gordon’s Bay).
Two Oceans Aquarium Smart Living Outreach Educator Anzio Abels taught five lessons to 527 grade 6 and 7 students at Gansbaai, Okkie Smuts, Die Bron and Zwelihle primary schools. Anzio’s full-time job is to take the Smart Living outreach vehicle all around the Cape, where he teaches about water saving, sustainable energy use, waste management and biodiversity conservation – these lessons are aligned with and supported by the City of Cape Town’s Smart Living programme (and our own Smart Living Challenge Zone, created in partnership with the City).
Because the Waddle’s main focus is the African penguin, Anzio’s Smart Living Biodiversity lesson was modified to highlight the plight of the African penguin and to introduce the learners to the Waddle and the idea of Penguin Promises (small things we can do in our everyday lives to make a difference for penguins, and the planet).
Interactive and challenging, the 45-minute-long lessons introduced concepts like food chains and ecosystems, explored the importance of biodiversity to the everyday lives of humans, examined the threats to biodiversity as well as the solutions to these threats.
“The interaction with the students was very engaging,” says Anzio, “with lots of positive interest towards the topics covered.”
While Anzio was teaching older kids, Puppet Stories Puppeteers Aisha Martin and Zingisa Mgumane gave 15-minute puppet shows to children in grades 1 to 3 at the same schools. Our puppet shows carry a strong environmental message packaged in a fun and accessible narrative. The Puppet Stories team has been carefully assembled in order to provide the shows in English, Afrikaans or Xhosa. “The children enjoyed the shows throroughly, as it was in their mother tongue, which made it even more fun and exciting,” says Zingisa. “After the show, we also explained ways in which they can help save African penguins.”
Also thanks to SPAR Western Cape, each child that watched a Puppet Stories show during this outreach campaign was gifted with his or her very own copy of I Live Smart, one of four books in our line of Puppet Stories children’s books. That’s 1 078 books now in the hands of bright young minds along the coast.
“Receiving their own storybooks to take home was almost too good to be true, and they cherished these,” says Two Oceans Aquarium Puppet Stories Producer Marguerite Venter. “Our sincere thanks to SPAR Western Cape. We felt truly blessed to be able to bring Puppet Stories to school children that have never had such an experience.”
As we continue on our mission to inspire action for the future well-being of the ocean, we at the Two Oceans Aquarium know all too well how important it is to inspire young minds and hearts if we are to see a better world unfold. These children are the change agents of our future, and they are our hope for a better tomorrow. We could not achieve any of this without the faith and support from our invaluable partners. Thank you, SPAR Western Cape, for bringing us a little bit closer to a better future for all.