Eleanor Yeld Hutchings describes the summer holiday programme run by the Save Our Seas Foundation’s Shark Education Centre in Kalk Bay, South Africa.
Nothing says Cape Town summer holidays like the sun shining brightly, a light south-easterly wind blowing off the sea, and the Dalebrook tidal pool packed with people before 8 am. At the Save Our Seas Foundation’s Shark Education Centre in Kalk Bay we have opened the doors, put out the sea creatures made from recycled materials, turned on the exhibits and are eagerly waiting for our first arrivals of the morning. The name labels are ready, the arts and crafts supplies are laid out and the train tickets are booked. Yes, it’s Holiday Club time, a favourite with all the centre’s staff!
The South African school year is divided into four terms, with holidays over December/January, March/April, June/July and September/October. During each of these holidays, the Shark Education Centre’s Holiday Club is an event that ranges in duration from one to three days. It is billed as, ‘For kids who would like to have fun while learning more about our oceans! The programme is designed to suit children aged between six and 11 years old, with activities to entertain and educate them about our marine environment. The programme includes exploring rock pools, going on beach hunts and swimming (depending on the weather and tide), as well as hiking, doing arts and crafts, baking and watching shark documentaries.’ All of which essentially means that we get up to anything and everything under the sun – and sometimes indoors too.
The Holiday Club is a perfect opportunity to experiment with new activities and ideas. Because we are limited to 20 children per day and have a specific age range, we have a bit more freedom to test things out than we do in formal education programming. So all of us store up ideas for activities and games and crafts and pretty much anything that we see throughout the year, so that when the next Holiday Club comes around we can bring out all the new things to try. Some of them prove to be extremely popular, like the game ‘Feeding Frenzy’, which was inspired by an activity taught by uShaka Marine World education staff at the 2016 Marine and Coastal Educators Network national meeting. These then make their way into regular rotation as part of our arsenal of activities for children’s camps and clubs.
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.