Playing games at MCEN conference in Hermanus

Marine and Coastal Educators gathered in Hermanus to share ideas at the MCEN conference (Marine and Coastal Educators Network). Educators from all over the country gathered to showcase new developments in their organisations or to engage us all in thought provoking environmental activities and games.Afternoon visits included outings to the SANSA (South African National Space Agency), the Abalone Farm, the Municipal refuse receiving depot where all refuse bags are recycled and of course to Fernkloof Nature reserve to hike.

Thank you to PSP for funding my participation at the conference

Fynbos Survivor

What equipment would you need to survive 24 hours on a fynbos mountain? The weather in the SW Cape is notoriously fickle and at any time of the year you could get dry, windy, hot conditions or very cold, wet, rainy conditions so all weather gear is required to be sure you would be comfortable. Water and food would of course be helpful for a comfortable night along with sun cream, anti-mozzy cream, a hat and sunglasses and possibly an umbrella to give shade.

All the stuff a human needs to survive the weather
All the stuff a human needs to survive the weather

Plants living on a fynbos mountain are faced with surviving the same environmental conditions. Plants can’t pack themselves a rucksack of stuff or move away when conditions become unfavourable so how do they survive?

Plants are adapted to their environment eg most fynbos plants have small leaves to reduce water loss in the dry summers.Erica leaves are rolled over on the edges to reduce transpiration even further.

If they don’t have the necessary adaptations they will not survive

Introducing plant adaptations in this way is a good way to spark interest in looking at plants. I noticed many bored faces in the audience when I stood up and if I could read their minds it might have been ……’Marine educators are not interested in Fynbos’

Most people prefer animals because they move……plants can also be interesting by showing how sneaky they are eg the red pigment on the tip of the leaves of many fynbos plants is like suncream and protects the leaf from damaging UV rays. Erica leaves

Participants connecting with fynbos plants and looking for adaptations
Participants connecting with fynbos plants and looking for adaptations


This activity can be adapted for explaining adaptations of any organism in any environment. I hope these Marine Educators will use it to explain the amazing adaptations that marine animals and plants have to live in the intertidal zone.





Feeding Frenzy and plastic pollution in the sea

Heidi Killian from uShaka Seaworld in Durban started this activity by making us stand in a circle and tipping a large bag of plastic balls onto the  floor. We pretended to be sea animals feeding on the ‘food’ plastic balls.

Plastic balls representing food in the sea
Plastic balls representing food in the sea

We then checked which team had collected the most balls.

She then explained that some of the coloured balls were not in fact proper food but discarded plastic items and that one colour had to be thrown back.






The game became more difficult when the two food collectors in each team were tied by first their arms and then their arms and legs.

This is what happens to animals in the sea when they get entangled in discarded fishing lines, nets and ropes. It becomes much harder for animals to get the amount of food that they need to survive.

I am very competitive and love taking part in this game to collect 'food'
I am very competitive and love taking part in this game to collect ‘food’

This game is extremely effective at highlighting the end result of discarded plastic items and how it affects marine animals.







Plastic pollution of the sea is something that all of us can do something about by understanding the damaging nature of plastic items and then changing how we use plastic.

I promised myself that I was not going to use plastic straws……….the next day on our outing we were presented a small box of cool drink with a small plastic straw attached to drink it with!!!! I realised how plastic items are a part of our lives and how difficult it is going to be to change the way we do things, but change we must.