Category Archives: Early learning

The Stars of our Programs

Sometimes, it’s the simple things in life that make the most impact.  Take sea stars for example –  these unassuming members of the marine world are more than just pretty decorations on the reef.

These topsy turvy creatures with their mouth underneath and their bottom up top, play a major role in keeping our oceans healthy.

Sea stars are the underwater clean-up crew.  They eat their way through debris discarded by other animals feeding frenzies, as well as targeting organisms that need to be kept in check.  The services they provide in the marine eco system has earnt them the title of keystone species.

And they’re not afraid to take on a big challenge.  These close relatives of sea urchins and sand dollars can consume creatures much larger than their small mouths would suggest, thanks to a stomach-turning technique they’ve perfected.

They can expel one of their two bellies outside their body to wrap around prey – this external digestion is a slow process, taking them up to 10 hours to finish their meal.

But this is only one of the tricks up their five more sleeves….. sea stars can regenerate entire bodies from just one severed limb.  This is because most of their vital organs are in the arms, including eye spots, which help them to sense light from dark as they move about in the ocean.

Not bad for an animal that has neither a heart nor a brain.  Instead, these echinoderms have a basic water vascular system which allows them to pump the surrounding sea through their bodies.  Even their tiny, suction-cupped feet, which they use to move about, are fed from the filtered water they draw in.

There are close to 2,000 species of sea stars in our oceans using these clever adaptations.  These sloths of the sea will never win any medals for speed but many can live up to 35 years – a rarity amongst marine animals of this size, which speaks volumes about their ability to beat the odds.

While, some are protected by a spikey, calcified skin, most just rely on their bright colours to deceive predators into believing they’re toxic to touch.

Ocean Life Education has long been a fan of sea stars – they are an integral part of our team of animal ambassadors that accompany us to all our presentations.

If you would like to gently touch and learn more about these amazing sea creatures and many others like them, contact us at Ocean Life Education on info@oceanlifeeducation.com.au Discover for yourself why this most unassuming of marine animals truly has star qualities.

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.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r9VrClr6maY

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.

 

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.

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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