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Science camp upskills learners in scientific thinking and environmental awareness

By Tsumbedzo Leonard Ramalevha, Intern, SAEON Ndlovu Node mail.jpg facebook.jpg

SAEON’s Ndlovu Node presented its annual two-day camp for grade 10 learners at the Haenertsburg Mountain Observatory in Limpopo under the theme ‘Biodiversity’.

A total of 15 learners from different schools around Phalaborwa attended the camp. SAEON’s Joe Sibiya and Dr Dave Thompson introduced the budding scientists to scientific thinking, habitat transformation and its effect on biodiversity, assisted by master’s students from the University of Limpopo.

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Members of the grassland team collect data, learning more about biodiversity in this habitat (Photos: Joe Sibiya)

The programme focused on teaching the learners how to make observations in order to develop questions and conduct scientific research. The young scientists were given the opportunity to discover for themselves what happens to biodiversity when grassland is transformed into a plantation.

Following their research, the learners analysed the data they collected from the two habitats and prepared presentations to share their findings. The findings demonstrated that biodiversity declined in plantations compared with grassland habitat.

As an intern at the node, I was tasked with assisting with anything that had to do with the camp, from preparing the materials to leading the project. It was a wonderful learning experience. The camp offered me the opportunity to practise and harness my project management and presentation skills.

I also used the opportunity to share ideas with the other young scientists and learners. The camp opened my eyes to the possibility of unleashing the potential within our young people if we invest enough time and resources in nurturing and guiding them, like SAEON is doing.

I feel honoured to be part of such an amazing team and hope to attend more science camps during my time at this institution.

What the other young scientists had to say about the camp

“The camp has shown me how to work with people and share my knowledge with others. It was motivating to see upcoming scientists working together effectively and this has empowered me to do more.” - Regina Magashoa, master’s student, University of Limpopo

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Members of the plantation team find out more about life forms in plantations (Photo: Joe Sibiya)

“Firstly, I would like to express my sincere gratitude to SAEON for this opportunity. It was a wonderful weekend filled with learning experiences. The camp helped me to gain experience, share new knowledge and engage with young scientists like myself. I expected that this camp would help me develop my communication, leadership and teamwork skills and my expectation was met. Having never worked with a group of young learners before, I was unsure how they would react. But I am happy to report that we worked well together, shared ideas and taught each other new information.

“It was the first time I attended the camp and I was overwhelmed. I had a worthwhile and fulfilling weekend because I used the time constructively to share my knowledge and skills with young learners who wish to be where I am one day. Hopefully I have impacted their lives with the information I shared with them. I hope to attend more educational camps like this one in order to help young scientists on their career path. Thank you for all the good work you are doing for learners. They are truly blessed as some of us never had this opportunity.” - Charlotte Rabopape, master’s student, University of Limpopo 

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The grassland team (left) and plantation team (right) analyse the data they collected for their poster presentations (Photos: Joe Sibiya)

Feedback from one of the learners

I would like to thank Mr Joe Sibiya for organising this extraordinary excursion, as well as the scientists who sacrificed their weekend to enrich us with their scientific knowledge.

What I learnt from this science camp: I've learnt about the importance of grasslands and plantations and how they depend on each other. I've learnt about how we, as people, are exhausting and misusing our natural resources for our own needs. We abuse grassland habitats by planting unnatural trees that do more harm to our environment than good. I've learnt about the vast biodiversity that exists in grassland and plantation habitats as well as how they differ in number and species.

How the camp met my expectations: The camp granted me the opportunity to learn about new species as well as the use of the scientific method in carrying out an investigation. Above all, I was lucky to meet new people and formed special bonds that are certain to last longer. This was more than I had expected to take home from the camp. 

On behalf of my friends, I would like to say thank you to the SAEON team. We certainly look forward to our next meeting.

Tshegofatso Mokhondo, Grade 10 learner, Frans Du Toit High School

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