Shark class requires knife and strong stomach

A group of teenagers learn about sharks by dissecting two of them and building artificial coral reefs.

DUBAI - 22FEB2011 - School children building an artifical reef project as part as Ecocoast education on Tuesday at the diving club at Jumeria beach hotel in Dubai. Ravindranath K / The National
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ABU DHABI // A group of teenagers learnt about sharks by dissecting two of them and building artificial coral reefs.

Twenty students at GEMS World Academy in Dubai are taking part in the programme, Week Without Walls, which is presented by the diving and education charity, Tawasul.

This weekend the group will head to the Musandam Peninsula to explore marine biodiversity in the area.

"The aim of the project is to take the children out of the classroom and let them learn from the environment," said Tawasul's founder, Ernst Van Der Poll. "It gives them an opportunity to meet people … and see what other professional fields there are out there."

About 1,000 youngsters have participated in the programme since it started in 2009.

Angus Jackson, an engineer from Ecocoast Marine Contracting in Dubai, taught pupils between the ages of 15 and 18 how to use discarded construction material to build two artificial reefs. The three-square-metre reefs are to be sunk off the coast of the Jumeirah Beach Hotel, where the training took place.

Later in the day, the group dissected two sharks bought from the Dubai fish market. Rima Jabado, who led the exercise, has been working for more than a year to determine how much local fishing is contributing to the rapid decline of sharks, which are also disappearing globally.

"We know what is going on around the world, more or less … but we do not have any information about the UAE that is comprehensive and long term," she said.

Juan Jacques Engelbrecht, 18, signed up for the programme out of love for the ocean and is considering a career in underwater filmmaking. "The ocean takes up most of the Earth's space but we do not know much about it," he said.