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Science engagement in the arid lands

By Mthokozisi Moyo, Science Engagement Officer, SAEON Arid Lands Node
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National Science Week

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Learners engage with one of the SAEON exhibitors at the launch of National Science Week in Kimberley (Photo: Dr Joh Henschel)

Staff from SAEON’s Arid Lands Node had the privilege to attend the National Science Week (NSW) launch that was held in Kimberley where our node is based.

We showcased our work in an exhibition along with SAEON's Egagasini and  Elwandle Nodes and National Office. Our facilitators kept everyone engaged with their interesting displays and enthusiasm.

We hosted three events during NSW where our scientists got to interact with learners and members of the community. This was all done under the NSW theme for this year, “Facing the harsh realities of climate change”.

The first event was held at Emang Mmogo Comprehensive School, where the learners got to visit displays set up by various stakeholders in support of our initiative. Most of the learners were very excited to have such an event at their school.

The second event was held at the Mayibuye Community Hall, where members of the public also got to interact with the scientists. Community members were happy that this event was brought to their doorstep because they say these events usually happen in places that they are not able to access.

The last event was a public lecture held at the Sol Plaatje University, conducted by Marumo Setlhare from the South African Weather Service.

Watch a video on the launch of National Science Week and SAEON's exhibition that was aired on SABC 2 News.

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Old and young alike were fascinated by the National Science Week activities (Photos: Dr Joh Henschel)

Grade 11 Science Camp

From 31 July to 2 August, the node hosted its annual Grade 11 science camp at Mokala National Park, where learners were taught how to conduct their own mini research projects and present their findings. Learners got the opportunity to interact with scientists and learn new skills such as data analysis and presentation skills.

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Vegetation survey (Photo: Mthokozisi Moyo)

Soil study (Photo: Mthokozisi Moyo)

For most of the learners, it was the first time they had been in a national park. Brian Culver, a citizen scientist, taught them about the importance of birds and how birds are affected by climate change.

The learners also carried out vegetation surveys led by SAEON intern Wynand Calitz, where they learnt how different land uses affect the vegetation found in an area. A soil study was conducted by Lehlohonolo Lepholletse, an intern at the Arid Lands Node, during which the learners got to understand the properties of the soil in the national park.

The highlight for most of the learners was the MiniSASS led by node technician Tshililo Ramaswiela. They were excited to get into the water and look for invertebrates.

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MiniSASS experiment (Photo: Mthokozisi Moyo)

Grade 11 group from Emang Mmogo (Photo: Mthokozisi Moyo)

Sol Plaatje University BEd Students

In addition to working with learners, we also work with students that are studying Education at the Sol Plaatje University. We expose them to field work and show them how they can use the outdoors as a classroom. These students carry out the same activities as those done by the “SAEON Kids” at the science camps.

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Students attending the SAEON science camp in August (Photo: Mthokozisi Moyo)

Uplifting teachers, especially student teachers, will have a significant impact because they are able to reach even more learners than the SAEON programme currently does. It will also bring about a change in how the curriculum is taught, which will ultimately have a considerable impact on the future of the country.

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