Sharnay Adams shares SANCCOB’s Education Team’s Impact & Vision

In South Africa, June is celebrated as youth month. Sharnay Adams is SANCCOB’s newly appointed Education Supervisor. Here she shares how SANCCOB’s Education Department actively engages young people through marine education and learning activities in Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, as well as across the globe.

What is SANCCOB’s vision for youth and conservation?
More than 50% of the species that we admit and treat at SANCCOB is listed as endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) list. It is important that we take care of these species not only to ensure that future generations are able to witness and experience their beauty, but seabirds such as the African penguin are also an indicator of the health of the ocean ecosystem. We raise awareness around the decline in marine bird numbers and the importance of clean oceans, linking this to a positive action that each one can take to make a difference to the ocean environment. In our education projects we show young people how to make small changes. For instance, by reducing, re-using and recycling. Reducing plastic is important as plastic often ends up in the ocean and seabirds eat plastic litter. We would be able to make such a large impact if we all take action.

Working with young people is wonderful as young people are often important influencers with their parents and other community members, and a key component in changing the ways we live our lives.

How does SANCCOB’s Education team contribute?
We offer school lessons and tours where we create awareness around the challenges that seabirds face. Our message is clear: the oceans can become a better place if we just slightly change our own habits. We offer opportunities for youth to become involved – they can volunteer in practical conservation work or start a learnership at our rehabilitation centre, adopt a penguin, make a donation, or make small changes to their lifestyle. Some of these include, saying ‘no’ to a straw when ordering a drink or encourage others to think twice about what fish to choose from the supermarket or restaurant menu, or by not buying a plastic bag for your groceries.

How many learners have access to your programmes?
We reach out to both mainstream and Learners with Special Education Needs (LSEN) schools; actively engaging young people in marine education. We have about 310 learners participating in our 3-day project for LSEN schools in and around Cape Town, which is kindly funded by Rand Merchant Bank (RMB) and De Beers Marine. We also host around 600 learners from mainstream schools in a 1-day project. On average, we engage with approximately 15,000 young people each year – the total of both education and learning projects in Cape Town (Western Cape) and Port Elizabeth(Eastern Cape). We also offer Skype lessons to learners across the globe.

What do you think makes the Education programme stand out?
The Education programme at SANCCOB is fun and at the same time a learning experience. Our SANCCOB Education team is a vibrant group and we are passionate about the conservation of seabirds. Our education and learning activities are customised to the grade, age and size of each group.

What tools do you use in your programme and what does it entail?
We use anything from arts and craft supplies , penguin costumes to PowerPoint presentations and videos, which is determined by the age group we are working with. A school lesson starts with an introduction to SANCCOB and the birds we see at the centre, for example, the endangered African penguin species. We also offer an encounter with one of our ambassador birds – a resident penguin from the centre’s Home Pen. After a short lunch break, we take the group on a tour of our seabird hospital.

How would you like to develop the programme further?
It would be great if we could explore the development of an interactive SANCCOB mobile app that learners could use on tablets instead of paper worksheets. I would also like to see interactive stations around the facility that offers learners a more in-depth understanding of rehabilitation areas or concept.

What action should everyone take to take care of the ocean?
We could all do more in terms of reducing, re-using and recycling our waste. Humans are responsible for the unnecessary waste that affects other species.

What one action do you take to ensure the future well-being of our ocean?
I have banned plastic straws from my life. I only make use of my re-usable metal straw because plastic straws are not recyclable and they can be very harmful to birds and other marine wildlife.

Which is your favourite place in- or on- or next to- the ocean?
I love being in the ocean swimming or next to the ocean just relaxing reading a book on the beach. I absolutely love Struisbaai Beach.