Between July and and October this year, our Oceans in Motion outreach vehicle, supported by GrandWest CSI, put on serious kilometres – 4 392 to be exact. And it serviced an outstanding number of school students – 3 475 to be precise.

"Being anemones" - a stretching exercise

Two Oceans Aquarium Environmental Education Centre teachers Xavier Zylstra, Bianca Engel and Thabo Sabeko visited rural schools in four South African districts – Eden, Namakwa, Matsikama and Southern Overberg – in order to take the wonders of the two oceans to children who can't make it to the Two Oceans Aquarium.

Thabo Sabeko teaches at Bongolethu.

This rural outreach programme was developed in response to these principles:

  1. Many rural schools are under-resourced and do not have access to the facilities offered by the Two Oceans Aquarium.
  2. The children are at a disadvantage as they are unable to visit the Aquarium to benefit from the premium education programmes available.
  3. Costs of transport to visit the Aquarium are prohibitively high.
  4. Taking live animals to the rural schools in a custom-designed vehicle makes quality education possible.
Bianca Engel in action

This 2015 Rural Outreach Programme was supported by the Department of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning (DEA&DP). The special outreach programme for selected schools in the Northern Cape was sponsored by the Department of Environment: Northern Cape (DENC) and Nature Conservation.

Touching and feeling

The education team prioritised grade 4 and 5 pupils at any one school and, in most cases, were able to see both grades and sometimes also the grade 6 classes. In the Northern Cape, grade 7, 8 and 9 students were also accommodated. Our teachers aimed to educate between 150 and 200 pupils daily. Between them, the teachers are proficient in Afrikaans, English and Xhosa.

Anemones, starfish and sea urchins were among the live specimens presented to students and each lesson required lots of interaction from the participants: answering questions, touching the animals (once instructed how to) and providing insight as to what was observed.

Xavier Zylstra helps children overcome their fear of the unknown

“It is a humbling experience to have been able to introduce sea creatures to children who have never been to the coast before,” says Bianca of her outreach trip to the Northern Cape.

There was a strong emphasis on the scholars taking the exploration further if they visit any beaches over weekends or holidays. Scholars were also encouraged to share the information with friends and family. It is hoped that a better understanding of animals will lead to a greater respect for the natural world.

Thabo presented a lesson about alternative energy sources by showing off the solar panels on the roof of the Oceans in Motion outreach vehicle. This solar energy is used to power the life-support system for the animals as they travel up and down the country.

Representatives of DEA&DP not only assisted the teachers in supervising the groups during the lessons, but also brought promotional items to give to each child that attended a lesson. These took the form of stationery sets made from environmentally friendly or recyclable materials, mini–backpacks, and water bottles. In each case, our teachers could link the gift to an environmentally friendly practice.

Accompanying teachers completed a survey after the lessons. Teachers said they found the use of live animals and a hands-on approach, as well as the use of the visual media and the interactive, investigative style hugely beneficial. They were also unanimous as to there being a strong and positive environmental message.

Sacred Heart school hall in Oudtshoorn

“It is always a humbling experience to see the hunger that our young people have for knowledge and how the ability to see and interact with real live animals makes the experience so much more memorable,” says Xavier. “We are most grateful for the continued support and kind sponsorship from DEA&DP that enabled this programme to become a reality. We also value our partnership with the Western Cape Education Department and thank them for suggesting suitable schools and permitting us to visit them.”

Says Bianca: "The encouragement, co-ordination of groups and venues and constant support provided by Morne Farmer of the DENC was greatly appreciated, as was the visit and participation by Erna Groeners, Manager of the Communication and Awareness Raising section of the DENC. “The possibility of running this particular program was hatched at a Marine and Coastal Educators Network conference and finally came to fruition, after a few years of dreaming and deliberation. We are most grateful to Ms Groeners for persevering with this vision and for the kind sponsorship from the DENC that enabled this programme to become a reality.”

Thank you to the following schools that received our education team

Eden District, July 2015

850 pupils taught, 1 095km travelled

  • Bongolethu Primary School
  • Sacred Heart Primary School
  • Saturnus Primary School
  • Van Reede Primary School
  • Wesbank LS Primary School

Namakwa District, August 2015

624 students taught, 1 429km travelled

  • Buffelsrivier Primary
  • FJ Smit Intermediate
  • Garies High School
  • JJ Lambert Primary Marais Gedenk Primary
  • Kammieskroon Primary School
  • Kharkhams High School
  • Kleinzee Primary
  • Leliefontein Intermediate School
  • Nourivier Met Primary School
Exploring starfish structure

Matsikama District, September 2015

967 students taught, 929km travelled

  • Maskam Primary School
  • Niewoudt Primary School
  • Uitkyk Primary School
  • Vredendal Primary School
  • Vredendal Noord Primary School

Southern Overberg District, October 2015

1 034 students taught, 929km travelled

  • Bontebok Primary School
  • Bredasdorp Primary School
  • De Heide Primary School
  • Protea Primary School
  • Swartberg Primary School
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