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National Science Week aims to make science more accessible to young minds

Article contributions by Thomas Mtontsi, Thulwaneng Mashifane, Pozisa Nqenqa, Lizelle Carolus, Donia Wozniak and Sipho Nkohla
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Learners measure fish length and mass during a data collection lesson

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Taking temperature readings at one of the stations during a hike

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Observations during low ride

SAEON’s Egagasini Node hosted a range of interactive and educational National Science Week (NSW) activities in collaboration with institutions such as the Iziko Museum and the Two Oceans Aquarium to contribute to the development of learners’ awareness, understanding and interest in science.

For the first three days, learners were introduced to Marine Sciences. At the Iziko Museum the groups participated in a fascinating historical tour that showcased the biological and cultural diversity of the past and the present.

As part of Nelson Mandela’s centenary celebrations, the learners were taken through the Madiba exhibition which highlighted the struggle icon’s life and the rich biodiversity on Robben Island. The exhibition also showcased many of the species named after him and highlighted the importance of conservation and sustainability.

During a tour of the afterlife section of the museum, the groups learned more about African dinosaurs, ancient food chains, climate change, survival and mass extinctions. The learners were also guided through the process of fossil formation and the tools and analytical processes used by archaeologists and paleontologists. Learners showed great interest and asked many questions.

Two Oceans Aquarium

At the Two Oceans Aquarium learners and teachers had the opportunity to view live marine animals. Visits to the aquarium were planned to coincide with feeding times, during which the groups learned more about the harmful effects of plastic pollution. They were introduced to some of the sea turtles in rehabilitation after ingesting or becoming entangled in plastic.

The groups also visited the African penguins’ section of the aquarium, where they were taught about the colonies and population of this endangered species. While at the aquarium the learners also attended classes during which they learned more about the scientific method and measured and weighed sardines to determine their maturity. These classes were included to teach the learners about the effects of overfishing and the measures in place to regulate this problem.

On 2 August the node presented a Public Science Engagement Programme that included a talk-show-style initiative to discuss the water issue in Cape Town and its link to climate change. Panel members included scientists and policy-makers and the community were given an opportunity to engage with them.

Science camp

NSW culminated in a science camp at Potberg in the De Hoop Nature Reserve, where learners from different schools were given an opportunity learn more about science and its impact. This is what one of the facilitators had to say about the camp:

“As someone who has had little experience of involvement in educational outreach, I found engaging as a facilitator on the science camp in Potberg a great learning curve of personal development. It is no easy feat explaining your science to young minds while holding them captive, but it is incredibly rewarding when you can see a spark in those same young minds, of enthusiasm and excitement about what you are engaging them in (marine biology in this case).

“I believe these camps are instrumental in instilling passion, confidence and building connections for many school children, as highlighted by the learners at the end of the camp. With De Hoop Nature Reserve as an ideal backdrop, it was difficult to not have an overall positive experience and I look forward to being involved in further educational outreach programmes.” - Donia Wozniak, SAEON Egagasini DST/NRF Intern 2018

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Learners from Heideveld High School at the Two Oceans Aquarium

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