Most aquariums justify the housing of captive animals by the display of marine organism for education purposes. The Two Oceans Aquarium has gained a worldwide reputation for offering meaningful and exceptional education programmes.
Aquarium Foundation teachers have developed exciting activities, courses, a curriculum and programmes that support Aquarium displays and ocean ecosystems beyond the limits of the coastline. The Aquarium is exceptionally fortunate. They display marine animals and plants that represent the largest ecosystem on the planet: the ocean! The ocean is also the least known of Earth’s ecosystems. We at the Aquarium Foundation have the privilege of educating about the ecosystems on display. Our team has challenged itself to find a niche within the South African and international education space to express our passion for ocean-based education and to do that effectively. There are thousands of theories on ‘how to educate’. After all, every parent has an idea about what ideal education is! As ambassadors of the sea, our challenge is to discover the combination of compelling content and engaging teaching methods to educate about the ocean. Our carefully designed wet laboratories and township outreach programmes facilitate the optimising of visiting student engagement with the Aquarium teachers, and the plants and animals themselves.
For the children in the Kindergarten or Early Childhood Development phase, a suite of puppet show experiences with accompanying books, written by education staff, have inspired and delighted thousands of children. We also offer presentations about various topics to school children and adults, to create awareness and understanding around the ocean and its inhabitants. Optimal experiential, inquiry–based learning dominates our approach to teaching, the design of our courses and the engagement with students.
COVID-19 has temporarily closed the Two Oceans Aquarium. Our Education Foundation teaching team followed the lead of marine organisms such as the octopus: it adapted its body shape and blended into the environment for its future needs. Online courses have been our new focus. Not wanting to be a ‘new normal’, but within Covid-19, a unit of a transformed excellence our creative education team have reimagined previous courses and are offering courses to students from around the world on marine education topics ranging from early childhood fun activities, Oceanography, Marine Biobasics, Fish and Rocky Shore ecosystems.
Regardless of the Covid-19 lockdown, the education team of the Two Oceans Aquarium Education Foundation continues to develop innovative programmes that inform and inspire South Africans of all ages.
Hoodwinker sunfish were only recently discovered in 2017, after hiding in plain sight amongst the more commonly known 𝘔𝘰𝘭𝘢 𝘮𝘰𝘭𝘢. So, when one of these rare animals was found washed up near Gansbaai, scientists from Dyer Island Conservation Trust and the Two Oceans Aquarium Education Foundation were alerted and eager to work together to learn more about one of our ocean’s most unusual creatures.
The Two Oceans Aquarium Education Foundation runs several holiday enrichment courses (known as ‘The Marine Science Academy courses’) for young natural historians with a particular interest in marine topics.
As they progress through the courses and climb the grades, many of them express an interest in pursuing a marine related career. This generally starts off as wanting to be a ‘Marine Biologist’, but further research and guidance through our courses makes them aware of the huge variety of careers on offer. Our courses for Grades 6 to 9 provide a general insight into marine sciences, building up to our Grade Ten ‘Young Biologist’ Course, which provides a good combination of experiential learning as well as the opportunity to volunteer in the aquarium, if they want to.
The Marine Science Academy courses culminate in two five-day academic courses offered to Grade Elevens and Twelves (the latter on special request) who are considering studying Marine Sciences at a tertiary level, one on aspects of Biology and the second on Oceanography.
This year’s Turtle Road Trip was different from past ones, as the team of the Turtle Rescue Programme used the opportunity to conduct in-depth field training with the people and organisations working on the ground monitoring and patrolling our coastline – we might be the people that rehabilitate turtles, but the men and women patrolling the hundreds of kilometers of coastline are the first line in saving a turtle’s life.