Se7en is a Cape Town mom, blogger and long-time Two Oceans Aquarium annual member, with a gang of incredible kids that we're always happy to see at Aquarium courses, beach cleanups and even volunteering front-of-house and behind-the-scenes. With the Two Oceans Aquarium Education Foundation's move into the online learning space, Se7en had this to say about what the Aquarium learning experience means to her and her kids.

The Two Oceans Aquarium is one of our family's truly happy places, and one of Cape Town's best places to visit for local and overseas visitors. Not only is it a fabulous place to visit because of all the ocean love, the fantastic programmes and things to do there as a visitor, but did you know that they, along with their registered non-profit and public benefit partner the Two Oceans Aquarium Education Foundation, have courses for young marine enthusiasts to take part in and enjoy?

In this day and age the importance of raising ocean ambassadors and youngsters who have a good working knowledge of current environmental issues, who aren't afraid to get their hands dirty and organise a beach cleanup or to stand up and advocate for the ocean environment, cannot be stressed enough. From a young age, children are excited to learn more about the environment and the ocean and the Two Oceans Aquarium provides the perfect platform for parents to encourage their children's curiosity. My kids eagerly await their middle-grade years, when as a rite of passage, they begin their journey as mini marine scientists. They are so excited to hear when a course is coming out for them, they are eager to give up weeks of Saturdays or a week or two out of their school holidays to take on a course and immerse themselves fully in the Aquarium experience.

Each grade, has a course designed specifically for them, presented by the Education Foundation's experienced and passionate educators. The courses cover topics such as marine life and ecosystems, marine science, oceanography, and environmental advocacy, to name a few. The educators present science from many different angles, the students learn how to do their own research and they are given a variety of ways to demonstrate their knowledge. More than that, they learn how to interact with a variety of scientists and get a taste of career opportunities. On any given day, they might interact with the turtle rehabilitation team, a shark scientist, or an environmental campaigner. Not only that but the staff are willing and able to interact well with their students, and invite them to participate in their projects. There really is a niche for each and every student to find their place and get involved. After more than a few courses the students are able to apply and participate in the Aquarium's volunteer course, in which they learn to interact with visitors and stand up proudly as ocean ambassadors. Not only do they learn how to engage with visitors, but they also learn valuable leadership skills by helping on courses for younger classes.

As a scientist myself, I have always wanted my kids to get a taste of real science. Hands-on learning, and discovering the process of science as they go... not just book learning, but research and documenting, as they go. The Aquarium has provided them with this kind of learning. The Aquarium staff have always been enthusiastic and encouraging to my kids, who all have very different learning styles. Whether my children go on to be marine scientists or not, their education at the Aquarium has been invaluable and has stood them in good stead for their future careers and life in general. They have learnt to take advocating for the ocean and the environment in their stride, they have learned how to discern rigorous reporting from true science, and they are not afraid to stand up and be heard.

And now in the season of lockdown, the Aquarium has taken their school of science online. My high school boys were recently able to enjoy one of their high school courses online. They were thrilled that their courses were not cancelled and Aquarium learning was "business as usual." Not only were they busy and engaged with learning all day for a number of days... but the learning was varied and interesting. Online learning is a thing that our students can easily interact with and it is a great learning tool going forward with education in general. If you are interested in courses that will be coming up during the Winter Holidays, then please head over to the Two Oceans Aquarium Education Foundation and take a look at what is available for your students. Otherwise, while the Aquarium is temporarily closed, due to the lockdown, their passionate staff are still working around the clock to keep our favourite exhibits beautiful and ready for us... In the meantime, you can buy a family membership to support them, your membership will be valid for a full year from the date that the Aquarium re-opens... go and a take a look at its membership opportunities.

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