One man’s trash is another’s treasure, as is convincingly demonstrated at the SOSF Shark Education Centre, where the staff are also recycling that most precious commodity, water.
The Save Our Seas Foundation Shark Education Centre does amazing work in marine environmental education, teaching thousands of learners about our incredible oceans and how to be environmentally responsible citizens of Planet Ocean. But it does seem a little strange to be teaching everyone what they can do to lessen their harmful impact on the environment without ‘walking the talk’ ourselves. So over the past couple of years the Shark Education Centre has undergone a process to make it a best-practice example of green living.
Our first step was the addition of an outdoor sustainable living courtyard. The back garden, where visiting groups take their snack breaks, was turned into a showcase of up-cycling, recycling and re-using. The swimming pool was covered with a removable deck, both as a safety device and to provide extra seating. The walls around the courtyard were designed to feature all sorts of ideas for how to use space and create new items from waste: a decorative mural made from glass bottles; two vertical wall gardens with water-wise succulents planted in plastic bottles and old coffee sacks; pallet gardens; and planters made of painted car tyres. A seascape mosaic path, made of plastic bottle caps set into cement, was inlaid into the paving stones leading from the back door of the centre to the newly built and installed recycling station.
This large recycling block has containers for metal, plastic, paper and glass (collected weekly by Clearer Conscience) and, as a gesture of goodwill – and an incentive to get more people recycling! – we have invited members of our local Kalk Bay community to bring their recyclables to it. The uptake of this service has been incredible and very positive within the community, which has been amazing to see. We have even had to increase the frequency of collection to accommodate the locals’ response.
Also found in the back garden are a smack of water-bottle jellyfish, a large succulent-and-pantyhose turtle, a car-tyre orca, a number of plastic-bottle crabs, a car-tyre seal pup and a bicycle-tyre hammerhead shark – all made from up-cycled trash objects!
The front garden has been entirely replanted with water-wise indigenous vegetation and is now thriving. A special section was created of plants that together look like a coral reef, and this was done to prepare for the arrival of one of our most spectacular commissions: a four-metre-long (13-foot-long), anatomically correct sculpture of a great hammerhead shark! Made entirely out of recycled tyres, the artwork is entitled ‘Should tired tyres retire?’ This huge shark has taken pride of place on the corner of Main and Dalebrook roads and is a major visitor attraction, as well as an example of how we can re-use items rather than send them to a landfill.
Ideally situated at the edge of False Bay in Cape Town, South Africa, the Save Our Seas Shark Education Centre overlooks the ocean and is right on the doorstep of the incredible Dalebrook Marine Protected Area. This unique location enables us to immerse children in experientially focused educational activities.
The SOSF Shark Education Centre is an attraction not to be missed. It boasts a carefully selected collection of state-of-the-art exhibits that ensures that children and adults are able to learn through play and exploration, with each of their different senses engaged. This facilitates a truly immersive and stimulating educational experience while they are having fun.
The Shark Education Centre focuses mostly on sharks, from their diversity and anatomy to their habitats and their role in the ocean. However, there is also a strong emphasis on the unique and special marine ecosystem found in and around False Bay – and sharks are used as a key to unlock more general marine knowledge.
Groups of schoolchildren come through the centre and leave feeling inspired to care about sharks and their ocean habitats. But the centre does not only cater for visiting schools; there are outreach events, holiday clubs, marine awareness camps, marine explorers clubs and many other activities.
The Shark Education Centre also invites the general public to explore its displays. Ultimately, our goal is to ensure that our marine education and conservation messages are spread far and wide.