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Scientific method in action – "a truly enriching experience"

Flora Mojela, an educator from Matome Malatji School measures the height of a shrub (Picture: Joe Sibiya)
Members of George’s Group study the effects that foraging from large animals have on tree species (Picture: Joe Sibiya)
The Professors apply the scientific method, with the author of this article, Maband Patrick Mnisi recording the data (Picture: Rob Taylor)
The three project groups analyse the data from the field work. From top to bottom: the Flaky Thorns, the Professors and George’s Group (Pictures: Rob Taylor and Joe Sibiya)
- Maband Patrick Mnisi, Maths and Life Science Educator, Majeje High School, Lulekani

This article on the Ndlovu Node’s Teachers' Workshop held in earlier this year, was written by one of the educators of Majeje High school. In an approach aimed at giving the educators hands-on experience in the scientific method, the eleven workshop participants were divided into three groups. Calling themselves The Flaky Thorns, George's Group and The Professors, they enthusiastically tackled the three projects they had to complete – Wood study; The effects of foraging from large animals on tree species; and The Scientific Method in action ...

I would like to thank SAEON for their brilliant idea in bringing together a group of Science Educators around Phalaborwa for a hands-on Research Task Workshop at the Southern African Wildlife College (SAWC) earlier this year.

Credit must also go to the presenters, Drs Tony Swemmer, Dave Thompson and George Chirima who, together, represented a deep well of knowledge from which our buckets were filled with water to quench our thirst.

As a Maths and Life Science Educator at Majeje High School in Lulekani, I had a fruitful experience through my participation in the workshop. I felt it was time for our Educational Officials/ Curriculum Advisors to adopt such hands-on Tasks Workshops or Camps for Educators.

Applying the scientific research method

In the SAEON workshop I learnt that for every incident or event happening, there is a What, Why, Where, When and How it happens, and an expected answer must be attached to such question for a scientific research method to take action. This will further lead to the formulation of a hypothesis. Questioning such incidents or occurrences will give an understanding of different variables, whether dependent or independent. Ultimately this will lead to a solution to the problem identified through questioning the incident that was observed.

I was also pleased with the integration of technology in the classroom. This made the group presentations very interesting and professional. Starting from the data recording after the fieldwork through the data capturing session on the research sites to the data processing for presentation, I enjoyed the Scientific Method very much, thanks to our group leader, Dr Dave Thompson who was brilliant in his monitoring and mentoring. His clear explanations relied on actions rather than words - as the theme of the workshop suggested.

The workshop made me understand that the Scientific Method in Action is, in a way, Teaching Across the Curriculum. Even though SAEON focuses on environmental observation, I learned that there was no way one could put aside the mathematical concepts, life science concepts, and agricultural, scientific and historical concepts. All these subjects/learning areas, and more, are catered for in this package of environmental observation, and results in life orientation to the audience for environmental awareness.

Learning to use data to solve problems

For me, the main topic - data manipulation - was the core of the workshop, not because it is Learning Outcome 4 of my Mathematics Curriculum, but because it initiates research for data capturing and results in problem-solving suggestions.

It would be unfair not to mention SAEON’s Education Outreach Officer, Joe Sibiya, for his well-organised logistical planning for the workshop. His choice of research topics and sites was brilliantly coordinated, not forgetting the delicious meals!

SAEON, it was well worth giving a fish what it needs to get it out of the water - no wonder we were such a good team. To everyone who participated in the workshop - remember “The Professors", under the mentorship of Dr Dave, for efficient research results.

View the workshop presentations:


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