Two learners from Fish Hoek High School graduated at Two Oceans Aquarium, both achieving a diamond status pass as Young Biologists.Sarah Bagley (16) from Kommetjie and Ella Hosking (16) from Capri, both in Grade 10, completed a one-week course offered by the Environmental Education Centre, sponsored by I&J, at the Waterfront. The course runs over a full week and covers theory at the aquarium and practical applications, culminating in a camp. The diamond status is the highest certificate category awarded to students who have achieved 80% or more for their daily work. They completed 50 hours of volunteer work and they also had to run a beach cleanup.Bianca Engel, deputy head of education at the aquarium, says the Young Biologist course is the flagship course of their Marine Science Academy, in which they share information about the fantastic marine biodiversity along our South African coast, focusing on marine invertebrates and sea plants along the Cape Peninsula.“All this is done using a hands-on approach using live specimens in our Discovery Centre as well as in the Two Oceans Aquarium. We also introduce students to various aspects of marine careers other than just marine biology and how to apply the scientific theory to an investigation. Once the students have passed all the daily assessments they have the option to volunteer as a guide in the Two Oceans Aquarium at our touch pool and microscope exhibits, sharing the knowledge they have gained throughout the course. After the course the students are also required to arrange their own beach cleanup, start an eco-club at their school and share the knowledge they have gained with others. We offer two Young Biologist courses each year – one sponsored by I&J and the other by De Beers Marine,” she says.The Young Biologist course was started in 2001 but has changed in format and content quite a bit since the first course. Engel says the course was started because they were often approached by students wanting to study marine biology only to discover that they did not have the required school subjects in Grade 10, which were needed for tertiary studies. “The course was thus initiated as an enrichment course for students who had a passion for marine science and needed guidance regarding subject choices. To date close to 1000 students if not more have graduated from this course. Some of our alumni have gone on to pursue careers in marine biology or oceanography,” she says.For Sarah and Ella this is a dream come true and they admit it was a lot of hard work.Ella says all their hard work paid off.“It is never easy for any learner to study during school holidays. We had to do a lot of work. I’m glad we all passed it. I love working with kids but when I started I was very nervous, but now I’m getting better. I’m glad that I did this course – not only did it help me decide what I want to do as a career, it has helped me develop my public speaking skills and presentation, and my self-confidence grew,” she says.Sarah adds that for her, passing the course is now a step closer to what she has always wanted to do.“I’m so happy I passed. When I was doing the assessment I thought I will get a silver or gold but as I looked at the marks I saw I was doing well. It was so eye-opening to be learning from experts in the industry and be close to them.”They have both taken on the initiative of starting an eco-club at their school, currently with 50 members. Club members introduced eco-bricks to every Grade 10 class, equipping them with bottles and eco-brick sticks, and they have many exciting plans for next year. “I feel this is something that should have been started a long time ago but I’m glad people at my school are liking it and we will have more work next year,” says Sarah.Sherri Bell, Fish Hoek High School marketer, says the eco-club started by Sarah and Ella will empower fellow learners to be part of meaningful environmental projects.“Our [learners] can in turn reach out to influence their parents and communities to practise sustainable environmental behaviour. We are thrilled with their achievement of a diamond status pass as Young Biologists,” she says.Any learner in Grade 10 who is passionate about the marine environment and interested in pursuing a career in the marine field can apply to be part of the Young Biologist course. Information about this and other courses on offer is available on the Two Oceans Aquarium website: www.aquarium.co.za. The next Young Biologist course (sponsored by I&J) will run from Saturday 16 to Friday 22 March.