Rowan Koh: Why I became a S.E.A. Aquarium docent

Rowan Koh is a secondary four student at Geylang Methodist Secondary School. The 15-year-old is among our first batch of S.E.A. Aquarium docents who joined us in January 2018. He has since clocked more than 30 hours of duty.

We caught up with him to find out more about his experience so far, and what got him started in the first place.

1. How did you first hear about S.E.A. Aquarium’s docent programme?

My mother stumbled upon it on Facebook. Knowing how much I love marine life, she told me about the programme.

2. What made you sign up?

At first, I was slightly reluctant as I was quite shy and did not want to interact with strangers. My family strongly encouraged me to sign up and try something new for once.

At the same time, I wanted to gain more knowledge about marine animals because I am very passionate about them, especially corals.  I have my own reef tank and seahorse tank at home. And I really wanted to learn more about conservation as well. Seeing the severity of coral bleaching in the ocean, I wanted to know how I can help and possibly get others to learn and appreciate what we have on this earth.

That’s my reef tank and seahorse tank.

Being a Geography student, I also wanted to learn more about tourism and to experience firsthand being in a tourism-related programme. I also wanted a boost in confidence and communication skills.

Eventually, I filled in the application form and went for the interview.

3. Now that you’ve clocked more than 30 hours of duty, how do you feel about being a docent?

Being a docent has been extremely enjoyable. It was quite different from what I had imagined. I thought I would just be assisting and ‘shadowing’ the staff. However, it was much more than that. I got to interact and communicate with all the guests and I was able to share whatever knowledge I have with them.

I shadowed an experienced Team Member at one of the booths and learnt the ropes from him.

4. What are some of your most memorable experiences or lessons as a docent?

There was a small boy who reminded me of my younger self. He was very curious for someone his age and was very interested in sharks and many other reef fish. He asked me about the sand tiger shark and listened intently to my sharing about sharks, fishes and conservation. He told me he does not watch cartoons, only documentaries, which I found to be extremely interesting. That was the first time I interacted with a child who was this interested in marine life and I really enjoyed talking to him.

There was another time when a tourist asked me about the names of almost all the fishes in the Open Ocean Habitat. I was glad that I could name most of them and explain how the fishes were fed.

Me manning the Sand Tiger Shark booth. I explained to the guests how the shark was able to ‘hover’ in the water due to the air stored in its body.

5. Has anything unexpected happened so far?

I am not very good in Mandarin so it is a challenge whenever Chinese tourists ask me questions. Initially, I didn’t know the names of the fishes in Mandarin or how to explain conservation in Mandarin, so I used Google Translate during my lunch break and tried to memorise some of the names of the fishes and phrases. Over time, I hope to get better at it.

6. What’s your favourite part of being a docent?

I enjoy interacting with guests and sharing my knowledge about marine life and conservation. I particularly like talking to children as I believe they can make a difference to the world when they grow up.

7. What’s your least favourite part of being a docent?

Standing for a few hours can be tiring but I am used to it by now.

8. How did your friends react when they realised that you’re a S.E.A. Aquarium docent?

When I told some of my friends that I was volunteering at S.E.A Aquarium, they were not really surprised as they know how much I love marine life. They have seen my tanks and how much time I put into them. Sometimes, I also bring up conservation in our conversations. They found it quite cool that I am a volunteer and they hope to can see me when they visit the aquarium.

9. What would you tell someone who’s considering to become a S.E.A. Aquarium docent?

I would strongly encourage that person to sign up. This programme is very enriching and beneficial. You will not only learn how important conservation is, but also get to experience a bit of what the working world is like. I find this programme very interesting as I get to do something else besides studying.

10. What’s your take on marine conservation? Now that you encourage others to use less plastics, do you also practise what you preach?

Marine conservation is extremely important and it is necessary for everyone to take action to help our oceans. I personally feel that not enough people know about what’s going on with the ocean. I also try to do my part by reducing the amount of plastic I use, taking shorter baths and recycling more. I am glad to say that even my family has caught on the idea of recycling and are doing more of that now.

This is my family’s recycling box at home. We place all recyclable items inside before disposing of them in appropriate recycling bins.

Be a S.E.A. Aquarium Docent

Volunteer period: from July 2018

We’re looking for dedicated and enthusiastic individuals like Rowan to join our docent programme. Docents play an important role in delivering fun, educational messages on marine life to guests, and inspiring them to care for the ocean.


  • Learn new skills and receive on-the-job training
  • Increase your knowledge of marine life and conservation
  • Become a more effective communicator with improved public speaking skills and confidence
  • Be part of a large community that shares your passion for th environment


  • 15 years old and above
  • Able to interact with guests, with a deep interest in marine conservation
  • Able to commit at least once a month for the first 6 months of the programme

There will be an interview and selection process. Successful candidates will be required to pay a $50 registration fee.

Interested? Email us at conservation to register your interest.

Closing date for application: 20 April 2018, 12pm.

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