South African schools may soon see many more learners leaving as environmentally responsible, ocean conscious members of society. In an achievement for ocean education in the country, Marine Sciences is now officially being piloted as a school subject.

Earlier this month at the start of the school year, The Two Oceans Aquarium, in partnership with three schools in the Western Cape – Gansbaai Academy, Simon’s Town High School and South Peninsula High – launched Marine Sciences as a new pilot subject.

The three schools selected as “Marine Sciences Node Schools” will offer the new subject to interested Grade 10 learners. At the end of their three years, successful candidates will be awarded a Two Oceans Aquarium Grade 12 Marine Sciences Certificate when matriculating. 

The aquarium has been hard at work with the Department of Education since the start of 2017 to develop the new subject.

Students who take Marine Sciences as a subject will be able to learn about ocean life, human interactions with the ocean and the ocean’s physical geography, and gain the information necessary to formulate their own opinions on ocean-related environmental issues.

“At least 15 to 20 pupils at each of the schools have opted to take the subject so far,” head of education at the aquarium Russell Stevens tells Cape Talk. “We are still opening the subject for students. We are hoping to boost the numbers to 40 students at each of the schools.”

The Two Oceans Aquarium has trained teachers at the three schools to teach the subject themselves. The pilot will guide them to introduce this subject as an official Matric subject for Grade 10 students in 2020. 

“We will be guiding the teachers via skype regular meetings. They are an enthusiastic group of teachers,” Stevens says.

The Two Oceans Aquarium has a very active and respected education department that sees approximately 70 000 school children visiting the aquarium each year and being introduced to the wonders of marine ecosystems.

“It is from these highly-acclaimed and ever-popular courses that the aquarium’s education team was approached by the Department of Education to develop the Marine Sciences curriculum for schools,” says Stevens. “Support from senior officials in the Departments of Education has shown recognition for the contribution made by the Two Oceans Aquarium staff in the partnering with South Africa’s formal education sector.”

As an eighth elective class taken by learners in this pilot phase, in addition to their seven National Senior Certificate (NSC) subjects, Marine Sciences will require commitment from the pupils, adds Stevens.

The Two Oceans Aquarium provides a general overview of Marine Sciences as a subject:

What is the Marine Sciences subject about?

The Marine Sciences curriculum has been conceived to cover five sub-disciplines:

– Marine Geography and Geology: examining the structure and origins of coastlines, the seafloor and sediments, and how these change over time.

– Marine Chemistry: looking at the chemical composition and properties of seawater and the effects of pollutants on ocean life.

– Marine Physics: learning about waves, tides and currents, as well as the ways in which the ocean acts as a driver of weather and climate.

– Marine Biology: this section covers marine life and includes ecology, fundamental biology, classification, evolutionary processes, and the adaptation of marine organisms to their environments.

– Humans and the Ocean: looking at how humans use the ocean for food, travel and recreation and how renewable and non-renewable resources are harvested. This section also considers the importance of research in helping us to understand the ocean and the effects that human activities and practices have on it and larger global patterns (e.g. climate change, ocean acidification). The issue of sustainability is foregrounded in the teaching of the entire subject.

How can my child take part?

Marine Sciences will be offered as an after-school eighth subject at the node schools, held two afternoons a week, the exact days of which are to be determined by each school respectively.

For interested Grade 10 learners from neighbouring schools and nearby areas, the subject will also be available. They will have to pay a fee to the node schools’ governing body.

Node schools are currently inviting prospective Grade 10s who wish to take Marine Sciences from this coming year to apply. Each application will be considered in conjunction with the Two Oceans Aquarium.

Applicants need to submit the following to the Marine Sciences coordinating teacher at each of the node schools:

– Letter of motivation from the learner as to why he/she is interested in studying Marine Sciences

– A supporting letter from their Geography / Natural sciences teacher or their Grade Head, recommending the learner and approving the application

– A certified copy of their Grade 9 June report

– A letter from their parent/guardian supporting the application, undertaking to arrange transport and to agree with payment of the after-school Marine Sciences fees.

The following criteria will apply:

– Applications are open to current Grade 9s who will be studying in Grade 10 in 2019.

– A maximum of 40 suitable candidates per node will be selected

– Candidates must be taking Grade 10 Maths and Physical Sciences

– Students must have reliable transport to ensure attendance of the programme

– If Marine Sciences will be the learner’s eighth subject, it must not interfere with any of their other subjects.

For enquiries regarding the Marine Sciences curriculum and subjects, contact the following node schools:

-Gansbaai Academy (028 384 2370)

-Simon’s Town High (021 786 1056)

-South Peninsula High (021 712 9318)


Picture: Two Oceans Aquarium

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