News

Bringing the oceans to Oudsthoon

9 August 2015

900 school learners take part in marine experience in Oudsthoorn.

Learners got a taste of the ocean as a fully equipped mobile aquarium toured the local primary schools in land-locked Oudsthoorn this past week from 27th to 31st of July. “Marine Education Goes Rural” is hosted by Western Cape Government Environmental Affairs and Development Planning and is designed to teach primary school learners the importance of our oceans, marine life as well as careers in biodiversity and coastal management.

Carmen van Uys, Environmental Officer for Western Cape Government Environmental Affairs and Development Planning said: “The aim is to reach under-resourced schools with a mobile aquarium facility, offering the children an unforgettable marine education experience. This education programme is collaboration between our department and Two Oceans Aquarium.”

The programme is aimed at grade 5 and 6 learners of five identified schools in the area. More than a 900 learners were exposed to the mobile aquarium where they were able to see and touch sea stars, sea urchins and sea anemones. “The programme teaches learners how these little creatures are adapted to their rocky pool environments and how the effects of pollution affect them – no matter how far one is away from the ocean,” said van Uys.

Johnny Bisschoff, principal of Van Reede primary school said: “This is an excellent initiative. Bringing the ocean inland opens up a whole new world to our learners. This program also teaches them respect for these sea creatures; hence they will learn to respect their own environment.”

Xavier Zylstra, Senior Environmental Educator at Two Oceans Aquarium Cape Town: “Myself and my colleague Thabo Sabeko do the rural outreaches to outlying towns about 4-5 times a year. Some of these kids have never been to the beach before so it’s important that we can bring a part of the ocean to them in a fun and engaging way while always tying it back to their school curriculum (CAPS). The aquarium puts a lot of its effort into education, as we want to be seen and go beyond just being a tourist attraction, we want to give people a meaning and valuable experience. van Uys added that the programme was founded based upon the principles that many rural schools are under resourced and do not benefit from the facilities offered by the Two Oceans Aquarium. “Another reason is that the children are not able to visit the Aquarium to benefit from the premium education programmes on offer due to cost of transport. In this way we are able to bring a small piece of the marine world to them.”

The Mission of the Department is to promote a resilient, sustainable, quality and inclusive living environment in support of human well-being. Engaging learners in coastal management issues is an essential investment in the future custodians of the environment. Partnering with stakeholders on programmes such these helps to build awareness of one’s immediate environment and beyond. Zylstra said: “We’d like to take this opportunity to thank the Department of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning for sponsoring the outreach this week.”