Sea comes to school in Aquavan

What could be better than superhero Aquaman turning up at your school gates?

Unfortunately, Hollywood actor Jason Momoa was not in town yesterday to visit Tainui School for its aquatic studies, but the University of Otago’s Aquavan was.

The Aquavan has been bringing the ocean to Dunedin schools since August, immersing young minds in marine science and providing opportunities for pupils to learn about catchments and encounter marine life.

While inspecting a hairy seaweed crab called Harry, visiting Tahuna Normal Intermediate pupil Aurora Spur said the Aquavan was "way cooler" than Aquaman.

"Mainly because I don’t really watch movies."

Funded by a Te Ao Turoa grant as part of Dunedin’s environment strategy, the Aquavan is staffed by New Zealand Marine Studies Centre students and educators and has visited five Dunedin suburbs this year, spending four days in each area.

Tahuna Normal Intermediate pupil Aurora Spur (12) gets a close look at Harry, the hairy seaweed...
Tahuna Normal Intermediate pupil Aurora Spur (12) gets a close look at Harry, the hairy seaweed crab, during the University of Otago’s Aquavan visit to Tainui School yesterday. PHOTO: PETER MCINTOSH
Centre director Sally Carson said many school trips were disrupted this year because of Covid-19, but the Aquavan was a "welcomed opportunity" for pupils to be part of hands-on experiences and to better understand and care for the marine environment.

"The Aquavan project is focused on achieving improved understanding of connections between inland and marine ecosystems for school pupils and the wider community, and develop skills for environmental action.

"Biodiversity and a healthy marine ecosystem contribute to our own wellbeing through the food we eat, the oxygen we breathe and the activities we do."

She said the project also worked with teachers to incorporate the visits into integrated learning units, by providing pre- and post-trip material and teacher workshops.

It was hoped enough funding could be found for the programme to continue next year.

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