Guardians of the Deep

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Awareness. Conservation. Education. Research.

The Guardians of the Deep After-School Environmental Club is just the beginning!

There is an awesome, vastly undiscovered, world beneath the waves and this ocean realm plays an important role in the health of the global environment. Turning the tide on dangerously outdated perceptions is key in the future survival of life on earth. Being a Guardian of the Deep is more than just a title, by realising the power that our everyday choices wield; we can go on to inspire others to make good decisions for the ocean and the environment as a whole. I am linking up with local initiatives to show the kids that it isn’t all doom and gloom and that positive change is possible, by working together we can achieve great things! During their time with the club, kids will start to discover the many wonders of the ocean and how research and conservation work together to protect this vital life-source.

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The club offers a two year/eight term curriculum for each age group. Current age groups include: SeaStars (Grades 4 and 5) and Raggies (Grades 6 and 7). An additional group, Orcas (Grades 8 and 9), is waiting to be launched. Topics covered range from learning more about the scientific method by carrying out your own rocky shore experiment to exploring the depths of the ocean by studying the different ocean zones. From how to successfully coexist with the ocean and its creatures, by discovering and visiting cool local organisations such as the Shark Spotters, to designing your own super marine animal while learning about the awesome creatures that make this watery world their own. From learning about some of the very cool research being carried out in South African waters to uncovering and galvanising the power of our everyday choices.

Each group has a mascot…

SeaStars:

  • African spiny sea star
  • Scientific Name: Marthasterias africana
  • IUCN Status: LC (Least Concern)
  • Distribution: Southern African endemic. Found along the west and south coasts of South Africa, to a depth of approximately 150 m.
  • Average Adult Size: 200-250 mm across
  • Locomotion: Involves the use of tube feet whose ends are shaped like suction pads. Secreted mucus helps with the stickiness.
  • Predators: Crabs, sharks, seabirds and even other echinoderms. Their spines help defend them against these predators.
  • Interesting Fact: These animals are ravenous predators; hunching over their prey, they expel their stomach through their mouth and digest the prey externally.

Raggies:

  • Ragged-tooth shark
  • Scientific Name: Carcharias taurus
  • Other Names: Sand tiger shark (USA) or grey nurse shark (Australia)
  • IUCN Status: VU (Vulnerable)
  • Distribution: Subtropical and temperate waters worldwide, it inhabits the continental shelf, from sandy shorelines and submerged reefs to a depth of around 191 m.
  • Average Adult Length: 3.2 m
  • Reproduction: Raggies are ovoviviparous. This means that the embryo hatches from the egg while still inside the shark, where it feeds off its own yolk sac, and others,  until it is big enough to be born.
  • Interesting Fact: Intrauterine cannibalism – While still in the womb, the pup “hatched” first will eat its siblings and other embryos produced by the mother.

Orcas:

  • Killer whale
  • Scientific Name: Orcinus orca
  • IUCN Status: DD (Data Deficient)
  • Distribution: Most widely distributed of the cetaceans with several different populations and many different ecotypes found in waters all over the world.
  • Average Adult Length: 5.5 m
  • Interesting Fact: Collapsed dorsal fins in these animals are not restricted to captive individuals. One of the theories is that it’s a result of old age. The dorsal fin of the male continues to grow throughout its life, reaching a staggering 2 m in some cases, and as it gets older the cartilage of this structure begins to weaken under the weight. The fins then begins to bend, roll or totally collapse.
  • Port and Starboard: The famous pair thought to be responsible for the carcasses of great white sharks washing up along South Africa’s South Coast. These two killer whales reportedly hunt the sharks in Gansbaai and False Bay, ambushing them with a hit from below and removing only their livers… with almost surgical precision. The liver is the most nutritious part of the shark, eating the rest of the animal would not be energy efficient… they would lose more energy than they would gain.

Each child is given a personalised notebook in which to write down any questions they may have, the good ocean-minded choices that they made the previous week, information about a marine species that they have chosen and any cool facts that they have learnt about the ocean. Sessions begin with group discussions surrounding the information that they have brought with them and I attempt to answer all of their questions. They are also encouraged to draw any new species that they may have encountered and to share any ideas they may have for topics that they would like covered.

Guardians - Rocky Shore ID Guide

Each term includes field trips that link to the topic being studied. These vary from beach clean-ups and art lessons to aquarium visits and rocky shore exploration. When available I also invite guest speakers to chat to the kids about their initiatives, to show that anyone is able to make a difference and to expose them to the great groundswell of positive change that is currently moving through society and shifting perceptions. We are even able to link up with, and chat to (via Skype), researchers, conservationists and filmmakers from across the world.

Looking to the Future…

Guardians of the Deep will be expanding the number of age groups being catered for as well as the number of schools offering the programme. I am able to tailor course content to match current curriculums and, with my background, I can include terrestrial material as well. Freestanding lessons and/or field trips can also be arranged.

If you would like to get involved, collaborate, sign up your school, or just find out more, then please do not hesitate to contact me (Sally) at guardiansofthedeep@yahoo.com or check out our FB Page

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There is mystery and enchantment surrounding you… in every little crevice, in every sunrise or sunset, around every corner, in every step along a tangled garden path… patiently awaiting you opening your eyes and becoming aware of it.

Explore. Dream. Discover.