- Chantel Elston
What’s better for conservation than teaching somebody the beauty of marine life?
In today’s day and age, the bridge between scientists and the public is becoming ever smaller. Historically, scientists would stick within the confines of their ivory towers and only publish their work in scientific journals or in books that would be incredibly difficult for the average Joe to understand. For example the following is a quote from arguably one of the most popular pieces of scientific literature, “The Origin of Species” by Charles Darwin:
“As natural selection acts by competition, it adapts the inhabitants of each country only in relation to the degree of perfection of their associates; so that we need feel no surprise at the inhabitants of any one country, although on the ordinary view supposed to have been specially created and adapted for that country, being beaten and supplanted by the naturalised productions from another land.”
You are allowed to say ‘huh?’!
Fortunately, with the advancement of the internet and social media, scientists are beginning to effectively communicate their findings to the public. Science blogs, science reporters, Ted Talks, science tweets, science Facebook pages, etc abound. However, one of the most effective ways to reach the public is through educational outreach.
This is one of the major goals here at ELMO and that is why I joined the Grade 2 children of Edgemead Primary School on their outing to Melkbos beach last week in sunny Cape Town. A vast number of adults, never mind children, have never seen or realised what a shark egg is and we are here to change that!
Melkbos beach; the location for our shark and skate eggcase hunt with Edgemead Primary School. Photo by Chantel Elston
I arrived on the beach on Wednesday morning with a few minutes to spare before the first group of children arrived. Within 1 minute of walking on the beach I had picked up 6 shark eggcases all tangled up in one clump of seaweed! Melkbos really is a hot spot for these eggcases because of the kelp beds just offshore. I now had my specimens to show the children!
Then on each of the 3 mornings came the onslaught of 60 school children, breathless with excitement at the prospect of spending the day on the beach. We started the day off with a short talk where I explained to them what shark and skate eggcases are and what they look like, and also why we want to know where they have been collected.
Chatting to the children about shark and skate eggcases.
After giggles at the mention of a ‘pyjama shark’ and learning our website address, it was onto our first shark eggcase hunt! We were fortunate enough to have children find eggcases on every one of the three days we were on the beach.
Our shark eggcase finders – well done! Photo by Chantel Elston
The children also had fun doing various other activities on the beach such as races and building sandcastles, and during this time I was able to chat to the children individually, let them see and touch the shark eggcases, and answer any questions they may have.
Exploring life in the rock pools. Photo by Chantel Elston
I believe that one of the best ways to foster an interest and a care for the ocean is to begin with children and to show them the magic that resides within its blue waters. My personal journey with the ocean actually began here at Melkbos beach; as a child I used to spend countless hours exploring the rock pools and I do believe that is where I first fell in love with the ocean. So these days spent with the Edgemead Primary School children almost felt like going home for me, and I was so happy and grateful that I could share my passion and my knowledge with them! Hopefully we planted the seeds for some of them to become ambassadors for our troubled oceans with something as simple as a shark eggcase, and we hope to see more reports of eggcase findings coming in from them!