uShaka Sea World Education Outreach – Sodwana Bay

By: Dr Judy Mann

Sodwana Bay, home to South Africa’s best coral dive sites, is situated south of Mozambique on the east coast. The area has a rich natural heritage and the largely rural communities who live in the area often rely on the environment for survival.  Although the dive sites attract thousands of tourists, local people are often not exposed to the marine environment or to careers associated with the ocean. To address this need, SAAMBR staff have, for almost 10 years, visited schools within the Mbazwana and Mseleni Circuits. This year was no exception and our team of Educators and Curatorial staff members visited eight schools during March.  In addition to visiting schools they also hosted a teacher’s workshop.

The hour long primary school curriculum lessons were a combination of hands-on activities and a power point presentation focusing on marine ecosystems.  The high school lessons concentrated on marine careers.

According to uShaka Sea World Marine Education Facilitator,  Ruru Yapi one of her favourite schools was Inkosi Sonto Primary school where the foundation phase learners, who’s classroom was literally just a spot under  a shady tree, were an absolute delight to teach.  They were attentive, interactive and very smart. At the end of the lesson they had endless questions for the team such as why sharks have multiple rows of teeth. It was heart-warming to see the learners and their educators making the best of every moment in their outdoor classroom.

The principal was very grateful when later in the day the SAAMBR team donated some of the clothes collected by SAAMBR staff, to the grade 1 and 2 learners. 

At the High Schools the Marine Educators were understandably usurped by the presence of the uShaka Sea World divers who shared information about their career as a diver.  These learners seldom get an opportunity to get close to the divers who come from all over the world to exploring this magnificent biodiversity hotspot. As the uShaka Sea World divers had grown up in Sodwana Bay, the learners connected easily with them and they asked lots of questions about diving as a possible career choice. Questions included the dangers of being underwater, and bursary and study options.

At the workshop held at the Mbazwana Centre the teachers enjoyed hand-on activities aimed at bringing out the child in them. Complex concepts like photosynthesis, light energy and food webs were explored using simple everyday materials to create innovative engaging science education.  The common thread throughout the teachers programme was the unpacking of how environmental changes directly or indirectly affect all of us and the importance of practising the sustainable use of resources. “One of the favourite activities was the construction of a food pyramid using pictured wooden cubes and then randomly removing blocks to show the impacts of non-sustainable use resources” said Ruru.

SAAMBR’s Outreach programme, started in 1993, has reached over 100 000 children and educators. Through the programme learners have gained a better understanding of our oceans, and of the need to care for our magnificent marine environment – an understanding which will stay with them as the future custodians of our planet.