By Jean-Marc Claes
What do we know about the Next generation?
What do we define as the Next generation in scuba diving?
During the last weeks, I had the pleasure of teaching two 10-year-old boys to scuba dive. The boys (twins, in fact) are travelling the oceans with their parents on a sailing yacht. Would they have a different view on scuba diving from their peers?
As I had met them during the months before, but unfortunately, our schedules never allowed the time to teach them. So, we met again in Curaçao to plan and finish the Jr Open Water Diver Course.
The course was planned over a stretch of six days, giving enough time to do water training, confined and deep, but also to plan extra (oral teaching) sessions for theory.
Teaching the Next generation is just not the same as teaching people in their twenties and thirties.
Did I ever meet more prepared students than these two? No!!! Not even close! What a pleasure it was teaching these two Next Gen divers.
They prepared so well that I had to watch myself not become too boring.
In the past years, I have trained many Juniors in scuba. In my former dive center, Time To Dive in Belgium, we focused on family scuba diving. It was always a great moment seeing the kids grow into Junior scuba divers. These children were all land-based, with homes in Belgium. The boys were boat-based this time, having been sailing for over a year. And they have very different approaches and views toward many things.
The six days of training went by like a bullet train. The water sessions were as if the boys were in their natural habitat. Maybe teaching them how to ride a bike would have been a bigger challenge for them (although that skill is not required for an open water course).
During the scuba training dives in deeper water, I introduced different styles of dive equipment during the different dives.
When introducing the dive computers, we clearly saw a more distracted behaviour during the dive, as if the boys were drawn into the computers. Sounds familiar with kids on smartphones or tablets?
Also, handing them dive torches to play with the fading colours had the same effect. So technology today affects the next generation.
Every dive, we introduced a clear mission to them. As we were teaching in the ocean, in Curaçao, a lot of ocean life would be around. So by using the Pictolife underwater marine guides, we choose two or three different fish/corals/sponges/critters we would look out for each dive. The stoplight parrotfish were definitely one of the highlights, as many were around to be spotted.
Also, observing a cleaning station, and explaining the symbiotic relationship between marine life to the Next generation, was helpful and kept the boys amused while at the same time becoming a good practice in buoyancy control.
During the last dive, we invited their mother to join the dive. She is a certified diver, and we took this opportunity to show the three of them how to dive together and work together as a team. Diving with an instructor differs from diving with your mother! Would you agree with this??
As mentioned earlier, during the course, we introduced the Pictolife Underwater Marine Guides to the boys, and they had a great time with it.
In addition, we used the sticker collection of the Swiss company DiveSticker. This, too, was a big hit with the boys.
The process started with scuba diving, looking for different marine life, and identifying them using the Pictolife Underwater Marine Guides. After filling out the logbook with all the diving details, the boys would complete their logs by finding the corresponding DiveSticker of the marine life they saw and placing the sticker in their logbook. DiveStickers come in collections based on geographical areas. Check out their advertisement in every issue.
The boys could not even get dry enough to start doing all this. What about that kind of enthusiasm for “paperwork”?
Next generation divers have a different view on things!
During a dive, they need more adventurous ideas and goals, whereas we, adults, seek more relaxed diving, the silent world, as the famous Jacques Cousteau has called it!
I must admit that teaching these children and observing them a lot during all these dives in warm waters allowed me to reevaluate myself in teaching Next generation courses as well. I prepared different and took different approaches in my explanations and teaching tools.
After 32 years (or even a lot less) of teaching diving, you must admit that you create habits that are not always good to apply to all your students. So every day, I took one hour to prepare myself again (it just would take me five minutes in the past) and rethink my teaching. Then, I would make a plan to ensure that these ten-year-olds would love and understand what I had to say.
When training the Next generation, focus on your approach, their way of experiencing scuba diving and their viewpoint. Do not try to be looked upon as a superhero or superpower, but rather that we can breathe underwater and teach you how to do the same!
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