Young and old discover estuary's secrets

Louw Claassens (right) presents a demonstration to Knysna Secondary School learners.

KNYSNA NEWS - Thanks to Knysna Basin Project, learners of Jeppe Girls' High School in Johannesburg and Knysna Secondary School spent a couple of exciting days learning about the Knysna Estuary. which is the most environmentally important in South Africa.
According to volunteer Peter Smith, the school children and about 15 members of the public enjoyed a range of activities during the recent Knysna Arts Festival and Marine Week (in the second week of October). Smith said the 32 learners from Jeppe Girls’ High School and the 20 learners from Knysna Secondary School in Hornlee, got the opportunity to learn how to analyse water for nutrients.
“The kids really loved sorting the trays of eel grass using their forceps and then putting it under their microscopes to look for the very small creatures,” Smith said on Monday, October 26. “Both the learners and adults had a really great time. The kids were really interested and they asked very good questions.”
Smith said that the director of the Knysna Basin Project, Dr Brian Allanson, rates education as one of the organisation’s most important and rewarding activities. He said that Allanson was delighted to welcome the learners to participate in the education session, organised by Knysna Basin Project’s biologist Louw Claassens and a team of volunteers.
“Jeppe Girls were on a week-long field course and spent a whole day with Knysna Basin Project, experiencing a mix of talks about the estuary and what Knysna Basin Project does, as well as practical sessions. The Knysna Basin Project team had prepared large dishes with examples of flora and fauna found in the different habitats in the estuary, which the learners were able to sort through, learning to identify the creatures living in them. Their day finished with a guided walk on the salt marshes.
“As part of their ongoing education programme, Knysna Basin Project is working closely with Knysna Secondary School’s Eco Club to run a series of activities with them during the year,” Smith said.
“On their first field trip they went to the rock pools at the Knysna Heads which are home to many colourful creatures,” Smith said. “The children got to see how some, such as sea stars and barnacles prefer to live in the pools near the low-tide line as they cannot tolerate being out of fresh seawater for long, while others, especially snails and some limpets, are happy to live in the pools nearer the high-tide line. They recorded the creatures they saw and took lots of photos especially of the brightly coloured spiny sea urchins and anemones.”
Members of the public were also well catered for. The Knysna Basin Project’s field laboratory in the industrial area was open to visitors for two days during the Knysna Arts Festival when visitors were shown some of the work carried out by the project, including demonstrations of analysing water samples taken from the estuary, examples of the many creatures that live in the estuary as well as a presentation of water depths at several points in the main channel, indicating how these had changed since the first surveys in the late 1800s.
“This was very popular with the fishermen and boaters present,” he said.
Jeppe Girls' High School learners seach for snails in the eel grass.  
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