Katja Rockstroh is our Education Operations Manager.
The Two Oceans Aquarium Environmental Education Centre runs a number of free enrichment courses throughout the year, and the Young Biologist course for grade 10s is probably the most popular of these. Over the years, this course has become a launchpad for budding marine biologists, educators and warriors, and it attracts participants from around the country.
Due to the popularity of this course, we host two Young Biologist (YB) courses a year, and of course that means we need two graduation ceremonies every year, too. The second YB graduation ceremony for 2016 was held on Saturday 5 November. It was the April 2016 group’s turn to receive their certificates in front of the I&J Ocean Exhibit. I&J is the generous sponsor of our April YB course.
Two Oceans Aquarium Head of Education Russell Stevens started the proceedings with a speech to motivate our young ocean activists to follow their dreams. This was followed by a speech from Kirsten du Plessis, an oceanographer who works with I&J’s Business Intelligence Unit. We also heard from Imke Meyer, a 2008 YB, who now studies sharks in Gansbaai.
The main event of the morning was the handing out of the certificates. We have four certificate categories that individual YBs can strive for: Bronze, Silver, Gold, and the coveted Diamond.
- To get a Bronze certificate, a YB has to volunteer at the Aquarium for 30 hours.
- For Silver, a YB has to volunteer for 40 hours, and organise a cleanup or do a presentation at school for their peers.
- For Gold, a YB has to volunteer for 45 hours, and organise a cleanup or do a presentation at school.
- For Diamond certification, a YB must volunteer at the Aquarium for 55 hours, organise a cleanup, and do a presentation at school to their peers.
A total of 48 YBs graduated, with an amazing 35 receiving a Diamond certificate!
A special Education Award was given to April 2016 YB Abdur Raaziq Firfirey. The Education Award is given to a YB who shows a particular affinity for speaking with people, relaying our educational messages and keeping visitors captivated.
The journey of a YB does not stop at graduation. There are numerous opportunities after graduating, and various accolades and prizes that can be won. One such prize is the YB Dive Challenge. This is awarded to the two YBs that have volunteered the most hours, six months after graduating. This time the award went to Sophia Hristov, with 558 volunteer hours, and Taahirah Sait, with 535 hours, both October 2015 YBs. They will be diving in the I&J Ocean Exhibit in December.
Another award open to YBs is the Charl Vogt Award. This is awarded to a YB who has been an active volunteer at the Aquarium for two years, has performed a diverse selection of volunteer roles and has made a great impression on staff and the other volunteers. This generally is only awarded to one person per year, but the competition was so tough that the award went to Courtney King and Azhar Ali Booley, both April 2014 YBs.
Last, but definitely not least, we handed out one of the most life-changing prizes: a bursary for undergraduate studies in marine biology and oceanography at the University of Cape Town. This bursary (made possible annually by an anonymous donor) is only available to a student who has completed a YB course at the Aquarium. This year, it was awarded to Eesaa Harris, an October 2012 YB. For any of the YBs wanting to study marine biology or oceanography, this is something to work towards!
If you are in grade 10 in 2017 and want to be part of the YB courses, keep an eye on our blog, our social media platforms, and the Aquarium newsletter for announcements!