The lesson teaches about sharks, the problems sharks face and shark conservation. The rock pool outing deals with the food chain and how this connects to sharks in a practical, hands-on and fun outing.
While developing our programme we visited Two Oceans and other education centres to learn about environmental education and we developed a programme with some variations from what was being done elsewhere. As I had worked as a lifeguard and wilderness guide this became part of my approach. Verona is a school teacher with yachting experience. Our programme developed around teaching kids a love and respect for the ocean and nature and emphasizing their importance as future leaders in taking responsibility for the conservation problems the world is facing. We present them with the problems and encourage them to come up with solutions. This is in line with SOS policies and appropriate to our backgrounds.
We improvised around this basic programme to cater for a large variety of school kids and visitors to the centre. My main job was doing the rock pool lessons and touch pools where I teach the kids about the creatures in the food chain and their importance in the bigger picture. I use simple examples to link the smaller animals on the rocks to sharks through the food chain. This illustrates the importance of the smaller creatures. In doing this we can show very real ways in which all can play an active role in looking after the wildlife of the sea by taking steps to protect not only the bigger creatures but also the smaller creatures. Learners learn about cleaning up litter, educating others, preventing liquid pollutions and reporting problems etc. This creates a positive atmosphere where learners can feel part of a solution.
I also organised clean-ups with the school kids for certain events of the year and we made a significant difference to the Dalebrook beach by removing old bricks and rubble that had been here for years as well as glass and regular litter. We constantly worked with the kids to do work to improve the situation that is significant and lasting. This creates an atmosphere of hope. An appreciation, interest and love of nature is encouraged through opening their eyes to what is all around and encouraging them to handle all creatures carefully and respectfully. Where children may become despondent when spoken to about the conservation problems the world is facing here children go home with a vision of hope and love in which they are all actively engaged in changing the world for the better.
In Durban where I worked as a lifeguard for many years we worked with law enforcement to deal with crime situations in which street children were an ongoing problem. Drugs and abuse problems were ongoing and these were serious and difficult problems to deal with. When asked to do this work I was at first reluctant but have found this very uplifting as here we have been able to actually do something constructive to help people from disadvantaged backgrounds who genuinely appreciate a bit of care and encouragement. It has been heartwarming to receive such appreciation and goodwill from so many children who are struggling to find their way through difficult circumstances. I have felt that the experience on Durban Beachfront has made it possible to engage constructively with these kids and taking them into the beach world that I know well and sharing this with them can be a very rewarding experience. There are also serious issues safety issues to worry about when doing the outdoor exercises.
During the time that I worked at the Shark Centre I was also very involved with running the KELP project with my brother Adam. Out of this we have developed the KELP education programme. I have been running this popular programme at SC and at a variety of other places. This involves a brief movie about kelp forests after which the learners are taken to the beach where they learn about the life in the rock pools and how this connects to kelp and sharks. Then they learn about the kelp washed ashore and we look at the life in the hold fasts. Next we learn about the kelp on the high shore and how this is broken down by the sand hoppers, kelp flies and various creatures. After this we take suitable pieces of kelp and use these to cut and paint vuvuzelas for each child.
Being involved with education has been an opportunity to develop ideas of marine wilderness that developed after my experience of wilderness guiding in the Richtersveld. Through work done setting up trails in Durban with friends from the Wilderness Leadership School I have developed ideas of dealing with the sea and marine life as a wilderness area. Through experiences in marine wildlife areas I have believed in connecting people to nature as one does on a Wilderness outing. Over two years we had many children pass through our programme and this has been an opportunity to put these ideas of connecting children to nature through the marine wildlife on the rocks into practice. It has been very rewarding to receive a positive response from the kids in general.
In 2010 the management at the SC changed and I stayed on for a while running the education and also developing a surfing environmental education programme which involved working with surfers to constriuctively help with conservation issues. During this time I was able to develop my marine wilderness programme further by linking with SANParks to do outings to Cape Point. I also linked with the Cape Town Wilderness Leadership School to do outings with the Pride of Table Mountain Group.
I have been applying my marine wilderness ideas and Kelp program ideas to my lessons with good results and it was a highlight of my time at SOSSC when 50/50 (Environmental TV Programme) filmed me doing the KELP lesson which was shown on TV leading up to the 2010 Soccer World Cup.
In 2011 I left the shark Centre to develop my conservation work independently. Since then I have been focused on developing my surfing environmental education and marine wilderness work.
You can see more info about my conservation and education work by following the links at the side of the page.