Jacob Brookie’s fascination with rock pools led him to share his knowledge at the National Aquarium of New Zealand.
“I was always interested in wildlife. When we lived in Mount Maunganui I was captivated by the rock pools and the diversity of coastal life.”
Jacob was home-schooled before attending Queen Charlotte College in Picton. After leaving school he completed a three-year Modern Apprenticeship in Museum Practice. The apprenticeship learning style of ‘learning by doing’ clearly suited Jacob.
Today he is passing on his fascination to school groups. At 20 years old, Jacob develops Learning Experiences Outside The Classroom (LEOTC) programmes on behalf of the Aquarium, and presents them to school groups from around the country.
Jacob’s museum career started when he was 14 and living in Picton. He volunteered at EcoWorld Aquarium and at Marlborough Museum. The roles soon involved taking tours, public speaking and working with animals. “Volunteering opened many other doors in Picton, and gave me the basic groundwork I needed to move into my role here in Napier,” Jacob says.
In 2010, while he was at Marlborough Museum, Jacob started the Modern Apprenticeship in Museum Practice, choosing to take the Customer Service units first. After his family moved to Napier, Jacob approached the National Aquarium and again volunteered. Soon he was hired, and the Aquarium supported him in completing the apprenticeship.
“At the time we moved I was about 75% of the way through the qualification. Because the Aquarium holds non-living artefacts like diving suits and also holds taonga such as the tuatara and the kiwi, there was lots of museum practice involved here as well. I completed the final unit standards in Napier and completed the qualification in May 2013.”
Jacob says his highlight is working with people. “There’s been a big shift from that older, curatorial style museum. People are welcomed in the museums I work in. It’s not just about having the stories – it’s about telling the stories beyond the physical items.”
It’s that love of working with people that made Jacob choose his Apprenticeship over going to university and studying biology. It allowed Jacob to train on the job, to share his knowledge with others, and it matched his own learning style.
“The role I’ve got at the moment is people-focused, with wildlife. It means gathering the information about animals and the environment, and getting it out to a diverse range of groups from pre-schoolers to seniors, tour groups and of course the members of the public who visit the aquarium day to day.”
Since completing his apprenticeship in 2013, Jacob has continued to study part-time, with an environmental management course through the Open Polytechnic.
He describes his role at the Aquarium as, “a very good balance of working with people and working with animals. I’m very happy where I am. The next step is gaining more skills and experience.”
“The Aquarium is a certified LEOTC provider and has authorised me to make and deliver these programmes. New programmes must get passed by the Ministry of Education before they go on the curriculum, and it makes sure they meet all the standards before signing them off.”
“Doing this feels fantastic! It’s brilliant not just to have knowledge but to be able to share it, and when that’s about something you feel passionate about, it’s extremely rewarding.”