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Valuable insights gained at Network of Education Experts' Symposium

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Members of the group listen attentively to Dr Tommy Bornman, Manager of the SAEON Elwandle Node (left) during a field trip to Port Alfred.
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Gaining hands-on experience in monitoring coastal environments.
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Three of the learners record their experiences.
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Visiting local schools and listening to teachers and learners sharing their involvement in SAEON projects proved to be an enlightening and worthwhile experience for the entire group.
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Spokazi Swartbooi presents her and Xolela Ngcete’s award-winning study on the rocky shores of Kenton-on-Sea.
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Judith João, a Grade 11 learner from Phalaborwa, presented a comparative study of the arid and riparian zones at Hamakuya District.
- Sibongile Mokoena, Education Outreach Coordinator, SAEON

 

In September, SAEON’s Education programme staff descended en masse on Grahamstown for the annual Network of Education Experts' Meeting and Symposium.

The meeting has become a highlight on the SAEON education calendar. The Symposium provides a platform where the SAEON advisory committee, education team, learners and educators from all SAEON nodes come together to share their experiences. This year’s host -- Elwandle Node – moreover invited schools and officials from the Department of Basic Education to participate in the Symposium.

Nozi Hambaze, the Node’s Education Officer and the rest of the Elwandle Node staff were well prepared and determined to be the best hosts yet. They went all out to make the visit to Grahamstown a memorable experience for their visitors. Staff members from the South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity (SAIAB), the host of the Elwandle Node, gave the visitors an informative introductory talk and tour of the fish collection.

The fascinating world of science

Then it was time for the Symposium to start. Participants were excited and prepared to do their best. Dr Tommy Bornman, Manager of SAEON’s Elwandle Node gave a presentation on the work of scientists and the equipment used for monitoring coastal environments, which left the audience crying for more.

After Dr Bornman’s presentation it was time for the learners and educators to present. Thomas Mtontsi, the Egagasini Node’s Education Outreach Officer, led the Egagasini team who shared their fascinating experiences during their time spent with scientists on a research vessel. Zodwa Yenana, a learner from Cape Town, wowed the audience with her project on monitoring sea surface temperatures.

The Symposium provides a platform where the SAEON advisory committee, education team, learners and educators from all the SAEON nodes come together to share their experiences.

SAEON’s Ndlovu Node was the next to present under the leadership of Joe Sibiya, the Node’s Education Officer. Judith João, a Grade 11 learner from Phalaborwa, presented a comparative study of the arid and riparian zones at Hamakuya District. The audience was amazed at the depth of scientific understanding displayed by Judith and the other learners.

The Grahamstown community, a large crowd, was anxious about their team who were the last to take the stage. The hosts were not going to allow the visitors to steal the limelight. Zintle Songqwaru emphasised the potential benefits of including weather data in the curriculum by demonstrating how her school was using the SAEON Weather and Climate programme to support the teaching programme.

Award-winning study

Elwandle Node learners Xolela Ngcete and Spokazi Swartbooi presented their study on the rocky shores of Kenton-on-Sea and the crowd was spellbound. Having won the Eskom Expo for Young Scientists regional elimination with this project, the two learners are now preparing for the National Finals.

Dr Ken Ngcoza from Rhodes University, a member of the Advisory Committee, in his address strongly encouraged the learners to keep on striving to achieve because there were wonderful opportunities to be gained from education.

The programme continued the next day with an education business meeting. The education team presented their progress reports and the Advisory Committee gave valuable input to the outreach programmes presented by the nodes.

Hands-on experience

A field trip to Port Alfred in the company of SAEON scientists concluded the activities of the day. The team gained hands-on experience and learnt about the ecology of the Kowie River estuary. The scientists are passionate about the work they do and made us keenly aware of the importance of estuaries.

The last day was spent exploring the research boat Ukwabelana at Port Elizabeth harbour, which scientists use for collecting their samples.

All Symposium participants appreciated the opportunity and were full of praise for how well the programme was executed. Visiting Grahamstown schools and listening to teachers and learners sharing their involvement in SAEON projects proved to be an enlightening and worthwhile experience, not only for SAEON’s education staff, but also for the learners who came all the way from Cape Town and Phalaborwa to benchmark and learn from each other.

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