The Save Our Seas Foundation Youth Ocean Ambassadorship Programme was developed and rolled out in 2015. Its purpose is to mentor future leaders in ocean conservation through a residential one-month survey of careers in marine science.
One of the signs that the end of the year is looming is the preparation for the December Marine Awareness Camp run by the Save Our Seas Foundation’s Shark Education Centre. This three-day residential camp takes place at the Soetwater Environmental Education Centre in Kommetjie, along the shore of the wild Atlantic Ocean. During the camp, 30 Grade 5 learners from a local school are immersed in the coastal environment while they learn about all things sea, shore and sky – and, of course, have plenty of wholesome outdoor fun doing it. It’s always an exciting time for the Education Centre team, as the biannual camps are a real highlight in our calendar. This time, however, something extra was added to the mix: an entirely different set of ‘learners’ who were there to both learn and teach!
The Save Our Seas Foundation Youth Ocean Ambassadorship Programme was developed and rolled out in 2015. Its purpose is to mentor future leaders in ocean conservation through a residential one-month survey of careers in marine science. Six young women from the Seychelles and South Africa were selected from a pool of applicants to participate in this exciting inaugural programme. Participants lived, worked and learnt together in Kalk Bay, along with programme mentors Sunnye Collins (an independent education consultant) and Abi March (project leader of the SOSF Island School Seychelles).
Each week they focused on a different aspect of careers in marine science: tourism, conservation, education and research. Each of these fields was explored through presentations and discussions with professionals, field work, volunteer work, observation and interviews, and by reading relevant publications and reflecting on the learning process through verbal and written work. For the environmental education section of the course, the timing was perfect for hands-on, experiential learning and the six young women, or YOAs, joined us at the camp to help lead the groups of children and to discover at first hand some of the ins and outs of in-field teaching.
During the camp, the 30 learners were split into six groups that tackled the tasks given to them over the next three days. This time, each group was also accompanied by a YOA as group mentor, which gave the children a perfect opportunity to hear all about the experiences and the education path that the YOAs had taken, as well as their passion for the ocean. And it was a plunge right into the deep end for the YOAs, who were thrust immediately into the role of hands-on educator – a task that some found easier than others! For some of the YOAs there was a language barrier to overcome, as English was not their first language. For all of them, there was the shift from ‘learning’ to ‘teaching’ (while still learning) that they had to make. But they had not been selected for this sought-after and prestigious course from a whole group of applicants for nothing. Within a very short time they were immersed in their groups and holding their own beautifully!
In addition to giving us some very welcome help in supervising and mentoring the learners, the YOAs were able to add a completely new element to the camp. For one thing, they inspired the learners with their tangible passion; for another, the fact that they were all from such varied and different backgrounds and had taken so many different routes to get to where they were opened the children’s eyes to the many possibilities within the realm of marine science and conservation. They led discussions and gave presentations, giving the Grade 5s some insight into life in the Seychelles (and for most of them their first awareness that there is a country called the Seychelles, let alone where it is!). And they in turn learnt something of what it is like to have to combine safety, scheduling, lesson content, supervision, fun, learning, exploring and feedback all in one.
All in all, it was a wonderful Marine Awareness Camp. Of course they always are, but this one was especially rewarding: for us, being able to teach on so many levels and learn at the same time; for the Grade 5s from Muizenberg Junior School, who had an added degree of mentorship and example; and last but not least, hopefully also for the six amazing young women who joined us. In the words of one of them, YOA Anthea Laurence from the Seychelles, ‘We were able to put ourselves in a marine educator’s shoes for three days. We shared our knowledge and experience with the students in the hope that it would inspire them to become marine ambassadors like us. Thank you to Eleanor, Paul and Zanele for giving us this opportunity.’
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.