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SAEON inspires learners at Science Beyond Borders Festival

By Tshifhiwa Ndou and Amos Nchabeleng, former DST-NRF Interns at SAEON
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The annual Science Beyond Borders Festival held at Galeshewe in the Northern Cape provided SAEON with an ideal opportunity to give career guidance to learners.

The event drew learners from a number of schools from nearby villages and the township. A surprising number of learners showed interest in science and technology careers. They were eager to explore what the future might hold for them after completing their grade 12 studies.

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Learners engrossed in the bird game puzzle at the SAEON exhibition stand

Omphile Khutsoane, Education Officer at the SAEON Arid Lands Node, tells learners more about careers in environmental science

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Omphile explains the functions of the SAEON nodes dispersed throughout the country

Potential career opportunities

Learners visiting the SAEON stand were introduced to a variety of potential careers in environmental sciences. They learned more about the daily duties of people in various disciplines, such as marine biologists, data scientists, science communicators, field technicians, observation scientists and botanists. Importantly, they were also guided on what school subjects to choose in order to qualify for these science careers and encouraged to work hard at their studies. In addition, various strategies were presented on how to survive the challenges experienced by students at tertiary institutions.

SAEON science education outreach programme

The event also served to acquaint educators and learners with the education outreach programme of the SAEON Arid Lands Node. This programme is coordinated by the SAEON National Office and implemented by education officers stationed at the nodes.

The programme provides learners an opportunity to participate in a number of activities and gain skills through hands-on learning during science camps and school-based monitoring programmes. In designing school projects with the help of well-trained scientists, learners gain skills in data collection, data analysis and reporting.

The programme also assists participating learners to enter various regional and national competitions to showcase their science projects, including the annual Eskom Expo for Young Scientists.

During the festival’s seminar presentations, Tshililo Ramaswiela, Field Technician at the Arid Lands Node and Sibongile Mokoena, Education Outreach Coordinator based at SAEON’s National Office, were afforded the opportunity to engage with learners on a more interactive platform. Sibongile captivated the audience with her presentation, Why does a cock crow? The learners also showed a keen interest in Tshililo’s presentation on climate change.

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Pictured at the SAEON stand, from left: Tshililo Ramaswiela (Field Technician: SAEON Arid Lands Node), Omphile Khutsoane (Education Officer: SAEON Arid Lands Node) and Sibongile Mokoena (Education Outreach Coordinator: SAEON National Office) with learners from Thabane High School (from left: Deolinda Selaledi, Vinolia Morwe and Mathapelo Sithole)

To illustrate that science can be fun, learners visiting the SAEON stand were invited to take part in a bird game puzzle. Participants were required to complete the picture of a particular bird by putting together small pieces of the puzzle, each one revealing more information about the bird’s name, distribution and territory.

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