Education & Awareness

Discovery Centre Lessons

Overview

  

While the Aquarium is open again, large groups are still not allowed. We can, however, offer our lessons online.
Contact us for more information or bookings.

Our two Discovery Centres, based at the Two Oceans Aquarium, are places of exploration and learning. The majority of school groups that visit the Aquarium also spend time in our Discovery Centre, learning about a variety of ocean-related topics. We have qualified teachers who all specialise in marine education and are able to teach children, and adults, of various ages.

In 2020, we have decided to focus on three themes for our school group lessons. Within each of these themes are lesson topics, with an indication of the grades for which we feel they are appropriate.

Our flagship ‘Underwater wonders’ lesson with anemones, sea stars and sea urchins, all animals ideal for hands-on or closer investigation, has been renamed ‘Life in the Two Oceans’. It remains our go-to lesson for first time visits and mixed touring groups. It really should be the first option for any group visiting for the first time, or doing a visit of a general, rather than a focussed Life-Science, nature. Because the animals mentioned can be used to illustrate so many themes and concepts, we have decided to incorporate an entire strand around these core animals, called “Life in rock pools”. Teachers making a selection should note the specific target grades indicated, as we may use mainly the same animals as for a previous visit, but provide information relating to or about them which links with specific CAPS topics prescribed for the grade year. There is some overlap between lessons and each presentation also has an environmental message, which may be specific to the lesson or a theme being promoted by the Aquarium Foundation at the time of the visit. 

For schools that have visited us before, or who are looking for a specific theme to complement their schoolwork, there are lessons available under the other two themes of Biodiversity and Sustainability.

These classes form part of school visits or online classes

Life in Rock Pools

Life in our Two Oceans: [Foundation phase or General touring group] The level of this interactive, hands-on lesson will depend on the age and experience level of the group. It provides an introduction to the Aquarium and the two oceans around South Africa and looks at names and adaptations of Sea urchins, Sea anemones and Sea stars. 

Habitats and structures: [Grade 4] The primary focus of the lesson is on animals seen frequently in rock pools and their adaptations to be able to feed, move around and  protect themselves. 

Support, skeletons and locomotion: [Grade 5] This lesson centres on rock pool animals and other animals in the Aquarium, investigating their skeletons or mode of support and how they perform locomotion. Animals available for hands-on investigation should include Sea anemones, Sea urchins, Sea snails and Hermit crabs. Arthropod exoskeletons and vertebrate skeleton preparations will also be on display. 

Ecosystems and Food webs: [Grade 6] The lesson looks more closely at the concept of an ecosystem and its living and non-living components, mentions various coastal ecosystems and then targets a rock pool ecosystem, with a hands-on investigation of some of its plants and animals, how they feed and the resultant food webs which are established. 

Basic Biodiversity: [Grade 7] The lesson introduces the two oceans around South Africa and some of the ecosystems in the Aquarium, followed by a hands on study of some rock pool animals to establish their Life processes, how tides affect them, principles of Classification and general Biodiversity. 

Biodiversity

Fish: This topic explores what a fish is and fish identification (shapes, colours, names), fish diversity, how fishes are adapted to aquatic environments (here, the level of detail will be age specific) and whether fish are a sustainable food source. Defrosted Pilchards or similar fish will be available for hands on investigation.

Sharks: This topic explores the history of sharks as members of the fish family, studies their adaptations to their marine environment (shape, fins, gills, skin, senses) and highlights that sharks are undeserving of their ruthless man-eating reputation. Live juvenile sharks should be available, on each table, for closer inspection.

Rocky shore Ecology: The topic studies typical South African rocky shores in terms of tides, abiotic and biotic factors affecting the distribution of seaweeds and animals, zonation patterns and the organisms that can be encountered on our rocky shores. A variety of intertidal animals and seaweeds will be available for hands-on investigation.

Kelp Forest Ecology: This topic launches at the Kelp forest display in the aquarium, to discuss ecosystems, in general and specific aspects of Kelp forests. From there, a classroom session looks more closely at kelp as a type of seaweed and some invertebrates which inhabit kelp forests.

Biodiversity: This topic unpacks the meaning of the word Biodiversity, highlighting classification, genetic, species and ecosystem diversity, then progresses to biogeographical regions of the South African coastline and the diverse communities of organisms unique to them. Some examples of live animals will be available at tables for relevant hands-on investigation.

Invertebrate classification and biology: The topic looks at prominent marine phyla from Porifera through to Echinodermata, highlighting their definitive characteristics and positions within the phylogenetic tree. Dry and live examples of the animals will be available for closer investigation, at each table.

Sustainability

Water conservation: The lesson introduces the water cycle and where our drinking water comes from, identifies South Africa (and specifically Cape Town) as a water scarce area and then explores ways to conserve water resources. A hands-on practical investigates the huge amount of water lost through dripping taps.

Data collection and scientific enquiry: The lesson introduces the scientific method, proposes a topic for investigation and then requires data (mass and dimensions of an animal) to be measured and recorded. That data is then synthesised into tables and graphs and can be used to answer a question and make recommendations. Animals used for this practical exercise will be frozen pilchards or alien harbour crabs.

Plenty Fish in the Sea: This lesson is about methods that are used to harvest seafood and the concept of sustainable/ unsustainable harvesting by means of an interactive game. This leads to discussion about seafood sustainability and measures to prevent unsustainable harvesting, including the SASSI program.

Marine Sustainability: The lesson introduces three themes critical to South Africa and the management of healthy coasts and marine resources.

These themes are:

  • Biodiversity, in which we identify South Africa as a biodiversity hotspot.
  • Seafood sustainability, using the SASSI program as an example.
  • Marine and coastal pollution, which emphasises how much of our coastal pollution is self-generated and the consequences to marine organisms.

Climate change: This lesson starts by defining weather and climate as different concepts, then looks at relevant statistics to support climate change as a reality. This leads to a discussion on existing and possible future consequences on marine and coastal ecosystems, including ocean acidification, sea level rise and habitat shift. In conclusion, the discussion moves to ways in which individual and national decisions can lead to a reduction in our collective carbon/ecological footprint.

Ecotourism: [Grades 10 to 12, particularly students taking Tourism as a subject] This lesson is an adaptation of the Biodiversity lesson but brings in more information about our coastal resources as an existing or potential form of tourism. A hands-on introduction to some animals which are found in local rock pools serves to add an exciting practical component to the content.