The enthusiastic teachers of the Two Oceans Aquarium Foundation really don’t mind getting their hands, and feet, wet when teaching enquiring minds about the ocean and its amazing underwater world!
The Grade 7 class of Bridge House School in Franschhoek was camping near Simon's Town and wanted to see what there was to discover in the rock pools in the area. They contacted us to assist with exploring the rock pools and helping to identify the marine flora and fauna, and our teachers were happy for the chance to lead one of these exciting lessons.
The rocky shores exploration lesson is one of the hands-on lessons that the Aquarium Foundation offers to schools that would like to expose their learners to curriculum-based education that is focused on the marine environment. Sometimes, as is the case with Bridge House, these lessons can even take place in an area where the animals and plants are naturally found.
On a fairly overcast morning, the Bridge House learners excitedly made their way to the rock pools. There they were divided into smaller groups, with each group assigned to one of the teachers. Dividing into smaller groups allowed for more focused teaching and the possibility to discover more. The teachers led the exploration of the rock pools by pointing out animals and plants, but also encouraging the learners to ask questions and find specific animals.
Each group was given a tub to carefully collect animals and plants that were of significant interest. Learners were guided in the best and safest way to collect the animals so as not to harm any of the specimens. Some of the animals that were found included nudibranchs, spiny starfish, whelks, periwinkles and various echinoderms. Information around food chains, the marine ecosystem as well as different species of animals and plants was shared, with fun tidbits thrown in to stimulate more curiosity.
The exploration of the rock pools proved to be a lot of fun, especially since the most elusive animal, an octopus, was actually spotted as it was sneaking up on its prey, an unsuspecting crab. (And of course, promptly disappeared as the cameras came out.)
Once all the groups had explored the pools and had collected their special finds, the learners came together to discuss what they had seen and to share what they had in their collection tubs. There was a lot of excitement around the nudibranchs and the differences between predatory sea stars and those that graze on seaweed, not to mention the various sizes of the periwinkles that were found. The brittle stars also were found to be quite curious, and even more so when it was revealed that these spindly animals are closely related to sea stars.
Once everyone had an opportunity to share their finds, the learners were instructed to carefully release the animals back into the areas where they were found.
If you would like your school to visit the Two Oceans Aquarium and experience a hands-on lesson presented by the Two Oceans Aquarium Foundation, please visit their website. Here you will find all the lessons that are available, you can book your visit, and you can also sign up for upcoming courses. The lessons and programmes on offer cater for learners from Grade R to Matric and beyond. The Aquarium Foundation teachers are very open to working with school teachers to custom-design lessons and to provide specialised lessons, like the rocky shore exploration lesson, as described above.