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Learner says SAEON environmental science workshop is a BLAST

By Omphile Khutsoane, Education Officer, SAEON Arid Lands Node
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Recognising the importance of science education, SAEON offers annual workshops aimed at engaging learners in scientific activities to help them develop a positive attitude towards science and environmental science.

Science workshops are one method to spark young people’s interest in science. “Today’s workshoppers could be tomorrow’s environmental scientists and engineers developing innovative solutions to future environmental challenges,” says Omphile Khutsoane, education officer of the SAEON Arid Lands Node.

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Learners take a short walk to where the vegetation monitoring demonstrations are done (Picture: Omphile Khutsoane)

Learners in small groups identify macro-invertebrates after collecting water samples from the Riet River (Picture: Omphile Khutsoane)

On 18 March, at the beginning of the school holidays, 23 learners from three schools in Galeshewe, Kimberley, gained valuable experience in environmental science, guided by the SAEON Arid Lands Node. Learners aged 13 to 14 participated in various educational activities conducted by qualified scientists and research technicians in the Mokala National Park.

SAEON’s knowledgeable scientists made the education goals achievable, and every session a fun, hands-on experience. Learners were exposed to a range of sciences including geology, ecology, zoology and botany, in order to equip them to make the right career choices in grade 10. Learners were encouraged to consider careers in science and environmental science.

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“I’m gonna make a difference, watch!” says learner Refentse Rakgoale (Picture: Omphile Khutsoane)

SAEON field technician Tshililo Ramaswiela inspiring a group of learners (Picture: Joh Henschel)

Adding further interest to the workshop, a special guest from the Department of Basic Education, Muriel Kwenampe, gave a motivational talk highlighting the importance of being part of the SAEON education outreach programme. She told learners that it was a special privilege to be selected for the workshop. The learners were mesmerised by this talk.

This is what one learner had to say about her workshop experience:

“I learnt about the ecosystem - the biotic and abiotic factors. By destroying the abiotic factors, the biotic factors are destroyed as well and the whole ecosystem collapses. We learnt how to use materials and methods such as measuring tape, poles, flags and quadrat to observe plants. We were also introduced to MiniSASS - collecting macro-invertebrates from a river and adding up the scores to see if the water is clean or dirty because it is the easiest way to assess the condition of a river. It has been an extremely engaging and interesting day; I definitely want to contribute to this sort of cause in whatever way I can in the future.” - Julia Rantasi

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