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You are here: Home eNewsletter Archives 2009 September 2009 Active scientists for a day : Learning about environmental science, SAEON-style

Active scientists for a day : Learning about environmental science, SAEON-style

The ADVENVIRO Kids head out on an information-packed morning walk. Leading the group is Graeme Ellis, Research Technician of the Kruger National Park (Picture: Joe Sibiya)

SAEON’s Nikki Stevens (centre) challenges participants to ask questions and to think like scientists (Picture: Joe Sibiya)

Learners get a clear illustration from SAEON’s Dr Dave Thompson that all life on our planet is connected (Picture: Joe Sibiya)

In this hands-on exercise the KNP’s Karen Vickers reinforces learning and gets camp participants to understand that humans are part of a much bigger system (Picture: Joe Sibiya)

The sun sets on another busy day of learning as weary participants are put through their paces (Picture: Joe Sibiya)

Scientists for a day. As part of their scientific investigation, learners collect data on the use of plants by community members (Picture: Joe Sibiya)

A group of learners excitedly reads the first clue in ADVENVIRO’s science-based Amazing Race (Picture: Joe Sibiya)

After several hours of fierce competition and tough mental challenges, learners gather at the finish line of the Amazing Race (Picture: Joe Sibiya)

- Dr Dave Thompson, Senior Scientist, SAEON Ndlovu Node


For the fourth year running, the SAEON Ndlovu Node’s ADVENVIRO winter school camp for grade 11 learners in the Ba-Phalaborwa municipality turned out to be a huge success.

Funded by the Department of Science and Technology, this initiative aims to encourage learners to pursue careers in environmental sciences by exposing them to environmental scientists, and by increasing their awareness of the valuable role science plays in our everyday lives.

Competition to qualify for the camp was intense, with 64 Geography and Life Sciences learners applying. Joe Sibiya, Education Outreach Officer for the Node and organiser of the ADVENVIRO camp, with SAEON’s Education Outreach Coordinator, Sibongile Mokoena, ultimately selected the twelve most deserving candidates for the camp (eight girls and four boys).

On July 6 these learners, together with support staff from SAEON and local environmental science professionals, headed to Tshulu camp near the northern Limpopo village of HaMakuya. On arrival at camp the Ba-Phalaborwa participants were joined by five learners (three boys and two girls) from HaMakuya Secondary School.

The intriguing world of environmental science

Over the next four days the learners were caught up in the intriguing world of environmental science. Mornings began with sunrise walks along the nearby Mutale River during which time Kruger National Park (KNP) Research Technician Graeme Ellis taught learners how to recognise and identify different birds and plants.

Days were packed with presentations, group activities and workshops that engaged learners in some of the more important areas in environmental science. Nikki Stevens, SAEON Ndlovu’s GIS expert and Data Manager, put the learners through their paces by developing their understanding of the scientific method, and then watched as the learners used their new-found skills to solve a fictitious crime, SAEON-style!

Issues of biodiversity conservation and climate change were tackled by Dr Dave Thompson, Senior Scientist at the SAEON Ndlovu Node, who challenged learners to make some difficult decisions about the conflicting needs of humans and the environment. The theme All Life is Connected was further developed by Karen Vickers, Ecology Lecturer for the KNP’s Organization for Tropical Studies, who explored sustainable resource use with the learners.

Learners then had the chance to be active scientists for a day and, working in groups, conducted valuable scientific investigations into the use of plants and other natural resources by local community members.

The Amazing Race

Another highlight was ADVENVIRO’s hotly-contested version of the Amazing Race, which saw learners racing to complete science-based activities and interpret biological clues. All this took place under the watchful eye of Sibongile Mokoena.

SAEON would like to thank everyone involved in making the camp a resounding success for giving their valuable time to promote science education in our country. SAEON would also like to thank the learners for their enthusiastic participation, which allowed them to make the most of this opportunity, and for proudly representing their respective schools and communities.

We look forward to hosting another successful camp next year!

What the ADVENVIRO Kids had to say about their experience

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