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Page last updated at 15:51 GMT, Wednesday, 8 December 2010
Plymouth pupils attend school of fish at aquarium
By Jemima Laing
BBC Devon

Caroline Johnson National Marine Aquarium
Caroline Johnson conducted the underwater lesson

There was an unusual twist on the phrase "a school of fish" at the National Marine Aquarium (NMA) in Plymouth on Wednesday.

Students from the city's Marine Academy were given the first underwater lesson to be held at the aquarium.

Caroline Johnson, education co-ordinator, gave the lesson in the ocean tank surrounded by traditional schoolroom furniture.

She was also joined by three large sand tiger sharks.

The pupils were taught shark anatomy during a lesson designed to showcase the new £500,000 Just Add H2O learning facilities at the attraction on Plymouth's Barbican, which are due to open at Easter 2011.

Caroline Johnson conducted the underwater lesson
The pupils were given a lesson in shark anatomy

The centre will feature an Aqua Lab, science theatre, a TV studio and production suite, a marine resources centre and new seminar rooms.

It has been created in partnership with the University of Plymouth and Plymouth City Council and is co-funded by the South West Regional Development Agency and the Wolfson Foundation.

"We are very proud to be the first aquarium to host an underwater classroom session," said Dr Dave Gibson, the aquarium's managing director.

"Although we're not suggesting that teachers submerge their usual classroom equipment and swim around with the sharks in the tank, it's a great way of engaging with the students and really bringing to life all the facilities that we have here at the Aquarium."

The new facilities will accommodate groups to research and discuss topics such as understanding the effects of dumping plastics in the oceans, coral reef conservation and water chemistry.

In 2009, 28,500 learners of all ages took part in educational sessions at the NMA's education programme - it is hoped the new facilities will increase that by 20,000 over the next three years.

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