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SAEON-sponsored learner and educator cruise to greater knowledge

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Mr Ndamane, an educator from Sophumelela Secondary School and Zodwa Yenana, a learner from Usasazo Secondary School collect sea water from the CTD (Picture: Thomas Mtontsi)
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Thomas Mtontsi, Education Outreach Officer at SAEON’s Egagasini Node and Zodwa Yenana work on the CTD (Picture: Busiswa Matyholo)
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Mr Ndamane assists Zodwa to collect sea water for chlorophyll analysis (Picture: Thomas Mtontsi)
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Zodwa tries her hand at preparing chlorophyll samples at the filtration stand (Picture: Thomas Mtontsi)
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Getting to work on the oxygen analysis instrument (Picture: Busiswa Matyholo)
- Busiswa Matyholo, Intern, SAEON Egagasini Node

Once a month scientists from the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) depart on a cruise to monitor the St Helena Bay line and the Sardine, Hake and Anchovy Recruitment Program (SHARP) to keep track of how much zooplankton and phytoplankton there are at sea to sustain the food chain.

This August Zodwa Yenana, a learner from Usasazo Secondary School and Mr Ndamane, an educator from Sophumelela Secondary School had the opportunity to participate in a four-day St Helena Bay monitoring line cruise trip organised by SAEON’s Egagasini Node in partnership with DEA.

The aim of the cruise was not only to demonstrate to Zodwa and Mr Ndamane the equipment that marine scientists use in their research, but also to relate this to the school science curriculum in order to educate learners about the vital role that oceans play in the environment. This involved hands-on experience of both the scientific investigations and the instruments used by the scientists for analysis.

The work plan was designed for everyone on board to get an opportunity to work at least nine stations, which meant that everyone had a chance to work in close collaboration with the scientist responsible for each instrument. The scientists willingly shared their knowledge, explaining the objectives of the experiments and allowing cruise participants to do practical work.

Zodwa had an opportunity to work with different scientists and instruments used for taking samples. She particularly worked closely with Analytical Chemist Hassan Ismail on CTD (measuring conductivity, temperature and depth), which contains 12 bottles used to collect water samples at different depths for the purpose of knowing the conductivity (salinity), temperature, depth (pressure), nutrients and oxygen.

SAEON involves learners and educators in research cruises to explore ways in which marine science can be incorporated into the school science curriculum, and to recruit young scientists into marine science as a career.

She learnt how to use Bongo nets to collect zooplankton (micro-organisms) to check biomass relative to the nutrients in the water as a key indicator of climate change. In the laboratory she tried her hand at analysis to check the nutrients and CO2 in the water.

Eskom Expo for Young Scientists

The experience enabled Zodwa to gather important information for her entry into the Eskom Expo for Young Scientists. She was encouraged to select her preferred method of scientific investigation and to gather more information about that method. The idea was to allow her to choose the working area, or area of interest, she enjoyed the most.

We allowed her to choose her topic for the Eskom Expo independently because we wanted her to take full ownership of the project. We taught her the important steps that need to be followed when conducting scientific investigations.

For her to qualify for entering The Eskom Expo she had to write an abstract. I was impressed by her progress and readiness to tackle new knowledge.

SAEON involves learners and educators in cruises such as these to explore ways in which marine science can be incorporated into the school science curriculum and also to recruit young scientists into marine science as a career.

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