Category Archives: Early learning

Bringing Nature into the Classroom


“Bringing nature into the classroom can kindle a fascination and passion for the diversity of life on earth and motivate a sense of responsibility to safeguard it”,

Sir David Attenborough.


Ocean Life Education’s Director of Education, Richard Coward, is a firm believer that education is the key to protecting the ocean. So, Richard has spent the past 14 years visiting schools, early learning centres and community events, passionately educating and inspiring young minds to feel a responsibility to protect the our seas.

“Our goal is to educate Australians about how our lives are interconnected with our oceans and to inspire them to feel a responsibility to take action to protect them”, Richard Coward, Director of Education, Ocean Life Education.


A Passion for Protecting the Ocean

Ocean Life Education was set up in 2006 by Director of Education and Marine Biologist, Richard Coward. Richard studied Marine Ecology at Queensland’s Griffith University and commenced his career running Sunshine Coast’s Underwater World education programs and was later promoted to Curator of Fishes.

Richard went on to work on the creation of a new aquarium in South Korea. Whilst diving in the ocean, he was astonished by the complete lack of marine life. This was the first time he had experienced first-hand the devastating consequences of human impact caused by over-fishing. This education inspired him to take action. Richard saw this as a wakeup call and was determined this was not going to be allowed to happen in Australia. Thus, his passion for protecting the ocean was born.

Richard’s career went off down many paths: managing exhibits in aquariums worldwide and working with sharks, seals, penguins, turtles, sea jellies, fish, octopus, and invertebrates, to name a few.  He has been involved in research projects and breeding programs as well as whale rescue and his knowledge has frequently been reported on television, including a whole feature on the Totally Wild television show. Throughout all this, promoting conservation has always been at the heart of what he does.


Taking the Ocean into the Classroom

Richard soon realised that educating future generations was the key to them understanding why the ocean is so important to us and inspiring them to take action to protect it. “You protect what you love”, he quotes.

But many children were unable to get to the ocean or even to an aquarium to experience ocean life first-hand, so the idea of taking the ocean to the classroom was hatched and Ocean Life Education was born.


Our Programs & Marine Educators

Since 2006, Ocean Life Education has promoted the protection of our oceans to hundreds and thousands of Australians throughout Queensland and New South Wales. Our aim is to bring the sea to the community or classroom.  Marine educators arrive with live marine animals, fascinating artefacts, games and resources and students get a hands-on experience interacting with the animals. They hopefully finish off knowledgeable and inspired to want to protect the ocean and passionate to tell their friends and families why they should do the same.


Our Programs

Early Learning – Ocean Discovery Program

Primary – Curriculum based and tailored themes and activities

Holiday Programs (OSHC) – Human Impact, Sharks, Weird & Wonderful

High School – Curriculum based and tailored themes and activities

Events – live marine displays, beach walks, lectures, workshops (tailored to requirement)


Further reading

For more information about what we can all do to protect the ocean, check out our blog:


Hope to see you soon!


Have Tank will Travel

Usually our sea animals bask in the 5 star luxury of their home tanks on the Sunshine Coast, where everything is carefully monitored to create an optimum environment, but when they hit the road to educate our next generation of ocean lovers, things get a little more tricky.

Our touch tanks are a home away from home for our animal ambassadors and we work hard to ensure things are as stress free as possible while they play a vital role in helping children understand and appreciate the aquatic world.

They travel all over Brisbane and the rest of South East Queensland, visiting early learning centres, schools and shopping centres, giving youngsters the opportunity to get up close and personal with these exotic creatures.

Under careful supervision, children are able to gently interact with our sea stars, sea cucumbers and spiny urchins, using our one finger touch policy that ensures our animals remain relatively undisturbed while cocooned in their cases.

To protect both animal and young enthusiast, our baby sharks are carefully contained in see through containers which allow for thorough inspection without causing damage.

Likewise, the colourful tropical sea cucumbers have such delicate feeding tentacles, they need to be kept clear of probing fingers.

But the fresh water turtles are only too willing to subject themselves to some soothing shell massage, all in the name of fostering a greater human/animal relationship.

We limit the amount of time our animal ambassadors spend away from their homes, rotating our starfish, cucumbers, urchins, sharks and turtles to make sure they are well rested and fed before embarking on their next mission to help save the oceans.


Sea Stars Turn TV Stars

21430316_269006576950783_5357399401719601007_nWe always knew they had that certain something, that undefinable “star quality” that has everyone asking for more… and now it seems Nine News Sunshine Coast agrees with us.

Our sea stars and other marine animals were featured in a recent television news story celebrating their contribution to Seaweek 2017.  A camera crew followed us to Kindamindi Childcare Centre on the Sunshine Coast to see first-hand the work of our “star” ambassadors.

Its long been accepted that as humans we care more about things we experience ourselves and touch is an important sense in making that connection.  Once we have a greater understanding of the fragile marine ecosystem, and the impact it has on our lives, then we are invested in wanting to protect it, and ensure its survival for generations to come.

As with most things, starting young is the key to success, so with every pre-schooler who learns to love our sea creatures, the better the chance the ocean will receive the attention it deserves.

To view the Nine News Sunshine Coast story click this link…


Early Learning Centres now environmental guardians

rich cowardAt Ocean Life Education, we have been fortunate over the past ten years to have been invited into many early learning centres across South East Queensland and Northern NSW. It is with great appreciation, relief and admiration to acknowledge that our young leaders of tomorrow seem to be heading in the right direction in regards to environmental awareness and its protection.

We have seen a gradual and methodical increase in centres culture of understanding and education of children about the importance of caring for the environment. We have witnessed a marked increase of recycling efforts; most centres today are actively recycling and not just one bin for waste and one bin recyclables – we are seeing four and five bins, a bin for paper, metal, plastic, glass and food leftovers for compost. With these separation bins in place children are participating in day to day life where more care and attention is given to waste and discarded food, they are learning to live a lifestyle of caring. They are informed why rubbish is separated, how it helps the environment and what’s great is, they get it.

Environmentalism doesn’t stop at recycling, more often than not we are seeing signs above sinks in bathrooms and outdoors explaining how precious water is and to only use the amount you need. This isn’t just for the children. We have also seen similar signs in the adult washrooms. Environmental education is a wholistic approach, where teachers and leaders are practicing what they preach, and changing their own behaviours.

The number of centres with veggie gardens also seems to be on the increase. Children learn to care and nurture the vegetables they are growing, and once harvest time comes they celebrate with a naturally-grown garden feast. We know primary schools have been doing this for a while but to see it incorporated in early learning is fantastic.

At Ocean Life Education, would like to think we are helping to play our part in this wonderful enlightenment of children with our live marine animal incursions, and we believe this is apparent.


Jason sharing our turtle story with children

As part of our program, we include a Turtle hand puppet story about the plight of marine animals like turtles that come into contact with plastic rubbish pollution. It is hard hitting and sad, which we make no apology for, as children remember the message. We have had teachers inform us that students told off siblings for leaving rubbish at the beach as it can harm sea turtles and promptly made them pick it up. This story is not a one off, which makes us proud.

So a big thumbs up to early learning educators. Keep up the good work, environmental education isn’t a fad – it’s forever!

Richard Coward