Teaching the Project AWARE Specialty

2008 is the International Year of the Reef and, in support of this worldwide initiative, the PADI Northwest Newswire will feature a series of articles about promoting and teaching Project AWARE’s specialty courses. Today we’ll focus on teaching tips for the Project AWARE Specialty.

Both PADI Instructors and AI’s can teach the Project AWARE specialty and the recommended minimum course duration is four hours.

The purpose of the Project AWARE Specialty course is to familiarize divers and non-divers with the plight of worldwide aquatic ecosystems and describe what individuals can do to protect them. It’s also a fun way to keep divers active during the winter and help non-diving spouses feel like part of the scuba family.

To prepare for the course, you’ll want to review the AWARE Our World Our Water manual (product no. 70241) and the Project AWARE instructor outline (product no. 70239). As you read through the material, jot down a list of how the topics relate to your local environment (contacts).

All you really need to teach the Project AWARE course is a room and some comfortable chairs. But here are some things you can use to make the course an interactive learning experience:

Utilize slides from the AWARE Coral Reef Instructional CD-ROM (product no. 70809)

Localize it! Show video / photos of your favorite dive sites*

In section VII (Fisheries concerns) – distribute Seafood Watch Guides (available from Project AWARE) that remind students which fish are okay to eat.

After section X (Marine Pollution), take a snack break and invite students to brainstorm a list of everyday actions they can take to lessen their impact on the aquatic world (cut up 6-pack rings, use reusable grocery bags, divers – practice good buoyancy, etc)

* The DVD Into the Deep has some beautiful footage of the Channel Islands. You can get it from amazon.com or Netflix.

Offering the Project AWARE specialty a few weeks prior to a beach clean-up is a great way to recruit volunteers. At the end of class, pass out a sign-up sheet. No clean-up scheduled? Invite students to sign up for your email list so they can stay up-to-date on what’s going on in their local marine environment.

Award all students with a Project AWARE certificate of completion and a flyer with information on your next AWARE course. As you pass out the certificates, remind students they are now ambassadors for the underwater world. They are responsible for sharing what they’ve learned. Invite them to tell a friend about your programs and (for non-divers) you might want to offer a free Discover Scuba Experience.

PADI Diving Society Members who enroll in an AWARE specialty (Fish ID, Coral Reef or Project AWARE) qualify for a free gift from PADI. Students must submit a redemption form and a receipt showing proof of purchase (training and AWARE manual) from a PADI Dive Center or Resort during 2008.


The Course Every Dive Shop Should Offer This Fall

When I took the Equipment Specialist course, I figured it’d be a fun afternoon of hanging out with my dive buddies and, heck, maybe I’d learn how to change an O-ring. By the time the class was over I had a two page wish list of things I just had to have.

I tracked down my instructor from back then (Scuba Steve of Aquatic Dreams) to find out what he said and did that made me want to drop half a paycheck on gizmos and wetsuit shampoo.

Scuba Steve’s tricks n’ tips for teaching the Equipment Specialist course:

When conducting the equipment specialty course, have plenty of gear on hand for students to touch and feel. Introduce them to the latest and greatest diving toys such as DPVs, Dive Computers, dive lights and BCDs. Talk about the difference between the high and low end dive equipment, and what to look for when purchasing new gear.

Keep the program interactive with hands-on workshops:
– wet suit repairs using neoprene scraps
– a trip to the equipment repair bench
– buoyancy comparisons of full and empty aluminum and steel cylinders in the pool, etc.

Use the videos found on the Encyclopedia of Recreational Diving DVD-ROM to show students how tanks and wetsuits are made. Or use the new Equipment Specialist course material for Android and iOS tablets.

Include care and feeding for your diver’s equipment
. Dive equipment’s biggest enemy is lack of care. By showing students how to properly clean their BCDs, regulators, wet and dry suits, they’ll have fewer equipment errors and malfunctions and the gear will last longer.

Help each diver put together a personal custom save-a-dive kit. Stock up on o-rings, bass picks, fin and mask straps, water proof boxes, LP and HP port plugs and anything else students may want in a kit.

I have done many equipment courses over the years and many people say it’s was one of the most informative courses they have ever taken (and I sell lots of gear to boot). Not to mention you get to show off every piece of dive gear that you have hiding in your garage, truck, closet and dive center that is known to man. Have fun!


  • Teaching materials: Equipment Specialist instructor outline (70220) and Encyclopedia of Recreational Diving Multimedia (70833) or Equipment Specialist Touch (call your sales rep to order).
  • Recommended student materials: The Encyclopedia of Recreational Diving or Equipment Specialist Touch (call your sales rep to order).
  • Stock up on products that you’ll be showcasing in class (Mirazyme, dive lights, spare parts kit, mutli-tools, gear clips, etc).
  • Create student handouts such as: an equipment maintenance log, equipment wish list, dive travel checklist, etc.

Invite new divers who have not yet purchased equipment.
Many divers are overwhelmed by the wide selection of dive gear on the market. The Equipment Specialist course gives you the chance to counsel them on a gear purchase and why they should buy from you and not their trusty computer at home.

Invite Divemaster candidates and aspiring Master Scuba Divers.
Divemasters should be familiar with the type of gear you carry and how to complete basic repairs. Taking the Equipment Specialist course is not required by PADI standards, but some dive shops require it as part of their Divemaster curriculum. Additionally, the Equipment Specialist course counts towards the Master Scuba Diver rating.

Make the most of orientation sessions


By hosting multiple class orientations at one time you can get all your student paperwork taken care of and promote continuing education at the same time.

After introducing your instructor(s) and divemaster(s), have students introduce themselves from most experienced to least experienced. Master Scuba Divers and Rescue Divers will appreciate the acknowledgment and it gives new divers something to aspire to (you’d be amazed how effective this is).

Next, give a brief overview of each course (mainly for the benefit of your open water students). For example, you might describe Adventures in Diving as a “specialty sampler,” discuss the value of honing your dive skills, and close with a brief overview of the adventure dives.

Paperwork doesn’t have to be just boring release forms. It can also be a short survey asking divers about their interests in and out of the water: must-have information for teaching presentations. As your students finish up, invite them to add their names to a Master Scuba Diver progress chart.

Pretty Pictures
Bring the underwater world to your orientation by running a slideshow of underwater images on a laptop or muted television. Images from your favorite specialty dives will subtly sell continuing education, and don’t forget to include topside photos of smiling divers having fun and making friends.