The month of September was a special one – Two Oceans Aquarium Head of Education Russell Stevens was invited to attend the 2017 Asia Marine Educators Association (AMEA) and the Philippine Association of Extension Program Implementers (PAEPI) conferences.
Russell was pivotal in providing a South African perspective to the AMEA and the presentations he made on behalf of the Two Oceans Aquarium were well received.
Russell says he was received as a "person of wisdom" by other delegates - his experience in working with diverse South African communities enabled him to facilitate cooperation and respect across this multi-cultural group: Taiwan, Japan, the UK, China, South Africa, the Philippines and the USA were all represented.
The “Three Cs” of AMEA
The theme of the AMEA conference was “the three Cs”, a play on “three seas” - cooperation, collaboration and coordination. Considering the language barriers, the levels of collaboration that the participants managed to reach in the time available was commendable, says Russell.
The AMEA was hosted by the Maritime Academy of Asia and the Pacific (MAAP) in Bataan, Philippines – an important ally in environmental education as it is responsible for the training of more than 40% of all merchant mariners in the world.
At AMEA, Russell presented on the Two Oceans Aquarium’s recently drafted and proposed Marine Sciences Curriculum – a plan is currently underway to have Marine Sciences added as an official high school subject in South Africa.
Russell says that this was the presentation he put the most time into – not only as an opportunity to maximise the exposure of the meaningful work the Aquarium team has done on this curriculum, but also to gain as much feedback as possible from the Asian marine education community. This presentation was very well received and earned a special award of recognition. Russell himself was awarded for being the second best presenter of the conference.
Talking education at PAEPI
Following on from the AMEA was the PAEPI conference with the theme "Ocean Literacy for the Protection of the Environment". PAEPI is a grouping of professionals from accredited higher education institutions, NGOs and governmental agencies involved in projects and activities of development and upliftment within communities.
At the PAEPI Conference at the University of Pasig, Russell presented on “Fostering Love, Respect and Understanding to Save the Ocean” and “Outreach Programmes offered at the Two Oceans Aquarium".
There was much interest in the Two Oceans Aquarium’s mobile outreach vehicles - educational technology that is able to take marine education into communities was viewed with the same respect and enthusiasm as high-tech ROV submarines!
Lessons from across the ocean
Asian communities face many of the same challenges that South Africa is currently experiencing, says Russell: poverty, inequality and poor education. "Not only is collaboration with the East a way for us to gain insight into how we can surmount these challenges in our own country, but it is also an opportunity for us to use the world-leading educational programmes at the Two Oceans Aquarium to reach a larger global community - one that has many of the same problems we do."
The Two Oceans Aquarium was exceptionally well received. For example, Ocean Literacy in Bangladesh acknowledges us together with world leaders in other fields - MSEA, NMEA, AMEA, NOAA and TOA (that's an impressive list to be on).
Being recognised as a world leader in marine education and outreach programmes is a reputation well earned by our education team, and we hope to continue to use this reputation to facilitate positive environmental change and learning in communities far beyond Cape Town.
From school visits, a free Marine Sciences Academy and eco-camps, to mobile outreach vehicles, environmental puppet shows for preschoolers and in-depth volunteer programmes, Russell and his team are carrying out exceptional work. You can learn more about the incredible work our education team is doing and how you can get involved here.