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SAEON’s Marine Science Holiday Camp – nurturing a new generation of scientists

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Learners share their expectations of the science camp (Picture: Busiswa Matyholo)

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The diameter of the balloon is measured (Picture: Busiswa Matyholo)

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Learners carefully record their readings (Picture: Busiswa Matyholo)

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Learners plot graphs using the recorded readings (Picture: Busiswa Matyholo)

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Time to reflect. Thomas Mtontsi, SAEON’s Education Outreach Officer (second from left), flanked by science camp learners (Picture: Busiswa Matyholo)

Thomas Mtontsi and Busiswa Matyholo, SAEON Egagasini Node

 

SAEON’s annual Marine Science Holiday Camp was held from 7 to 9 December last year at Potberg, one of two Cape Nature education centres in the De Hoop Nature Reserve near Bredasdorp.

SAEON’s annual Marine Science Holiday Camp is aimed at creating a platform for the learners to engage in environmental monitoring, discuss and explore short-term science orientated projects, discuss challenges, share their understanding of the monitoring work, as well as hone their science writing and presentation skills.

The education programme of the SAEON Egagasini Node focuses on five schools in the Western Cape. Five learners from each school were invited to participate in the camp. Educators assisted SAEON’s Education Outreach Officer in ensuring that the Grade 10 learners who attended the camp had Pure Maths, Physics, Life Sciences and Geography as subjects.

Of the twenty-nine learners invited, twenty-six attended the camp, as well as two educators from Sophumelela High School, Mr Ndamane and Mrs Zandiswa Mngqingo.

‘Let’s do the night walk again’

The night walk trail has proved to be one of the most popular science camp activities. Divided into groups of five each, learners follow a trail according to clues left for them on the way, which the learners have to figure out themselves. Each group receives one map and one torch prior to departure.

Feedback by the learners indicated that they found the night walk to be “fun, educational and challenging”. A key learning point for the youngsters was to work together as a team and to put their trust in each other to be able to complete the trail on time.

Mountain monitoring

The following day the learners embarked on a hike up Potberg Mountain to monitor temperature and air pressure at different heights. Their tools consisted of a balloon, a ruler, string for measuring the diameter of the balloon and a thermometer to measure temperature as they ascended the mountain.

SAEON’s annual Marine Science Holiday Camp is aimed at creating a platform for learners to engage in environmental monitoring, and to discuss and explore short-term science orientated projects.

The balloon was inflated to a size of their choice. The first measurement was taken prior to the experiment to serve as a baseline. Eight stations were marked where the learners had to read the temperature, use the string to measure the diameter of the balloon, and the ruler to measure the string. The readings were recorded and kept for interpretation. Temperature was observed to decrease and air pressure to increase as the learners moved further up the mountain.

The learners thoroughly enjoyed this experiment in the fresh mountain air. Back in camp they were taught how to plot graphs by using the recorded readings.

The climate change debate

Against the background of COP17 being held in Cape Town in December 2011, the learners were given a platform to express their views on climate change to encourage independent thinking. The quality of the ensuing debate proved that they were well informed about climate change and its impacts. Arguments were supported by excellent examples. To conclude the debate, the SAEON Egagasini Node's Felicia Solomons and Thomas Mtontsi, Education Outreach Officer, gave a joint presentation on climate change and its relevance to South Africa.

SAEON Kids

SAEON also invited four learners who had been involved in the Egagasini education programme over the past year -- Tania Moyikwa from Sophumelela High, Thembekile Gontshi from Hout Bay High and Zodwa Yenana and Olwethu Mbopa from Usasazo High --  to attend the camp. These learners shared their experiences of the SAEON education programme in presentations to the new team of learners. Presentations ranged from their experiences on a research cruise to the Eskom Expo for Young Scientist in which they participated in August 2011.

The SAEON Kids motivated the learners to enter the 2012 Eskom Expo, and gave them valuable advice in preparing their entries. They also mentioned the skills they gained through entering the Eskom Expo and being part of the SAEON programme. The SAEON Kids expressed their thanks to SAEON and Thomas Mtontsi for their support and encouragement throughout the programme.

Playing solitaire

On the last evening of the camp, Thomas facilitated a solitaire session to give the learners an opportunity to ‘connect with their inner selves’ and reflect on their experiences at the camp. The night was peaceful with beautiful stars overhead, and feedback by the learners indicated that they found the experience “awesome”.

In conclusion, SAEON’s Egagasini Node can report that the 2011 Marine Science Holiday Camp for grade 10 learners was a resounding success, with all the objectives achieved. The learners enjoyed and participated enthusiastically in all the activities. They requested that the number of camp days be extended to enable the learners to learn even more about science, observation and monitoring.

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