Recently Skype in the classroom organized a month-long series of renowned marine experts and oceanographers exploring the oceans and the creatures living in them. Thousands of students around the globe took part in Skype calls with guest speakers from boats out at sea, marine biologists in their labs, and in some cases, they had Skype calls with some of the animals that live in and around our oceans.
Egglescliffe Primary School in northeast England was one of those schools. They met a group of penguins in South Africa. Seabird caretaker, Rifqah Taliep, hosted a Skype call from the non-profit organization The Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB). She taught them about the plight of the penguins, but the call was also a chance for the group of Egglescliffe students to virtually interact with Rifqah’s feathered friends and enter their world. The children especially loved her story about “Beakie” and hearing how he became a resident of the foundation.
The students were surprised to learn that SANCCOB has treated almost 100,000 oiled, ill, injured, or abandoned African penguins and other threatened sea birds. In the lesson, Rifqah emphasized the plight of the African penguins and what education and resources are needed to support our oceans and the animals that call them home.
“For most of our students, this is the first time they’ve been able to see a penguin up close and personal,” said Egglescliffe teacher Dan Mount after the video call with The Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB). “You can take children anywhere with Skype. You can take them to experts in any manner of things. It’s real stories told by real people.”
The lesson was offered to six lucky classrooms for a variety of age groups and locations. It was an experience that none of the students, or their teachers, will ever forget. Over the course of the month-long conference, other Exploring Oceans subjects included “Let’s Talk Sea Turtles” with environmental awareness group Underwater Odyssey, “Filmmaking in Ocean Conservation” with Céline Cousteau and “20,000 Meters Under the Sea” with Professor Mark Patterson, a marine scientist who spent 31 days living underwater.
As for SANCCOB, independent research confirms that the wild African penguin population is 19% higher due to their direct efforts. By showing this important work to students, we encourage the next generation to explore the sciences, continue to uncover the mysteries of the oceans, and improve the percentage of protected marine species.