#02 2020

Supporting the linchpins of our education system

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and climate change are shining a light on the dire effects of mismanagement on our environment.

The need to protect and sustainably manage our environment, today and in the future, will require a transdisciplinary approach to building our understanding of ecosystems and their importance for human sustainability and life in general, and encompasses the training of future environmental scientists.

SAEON Ndlovu Node educators’ workshop

By Tsumbedzo Ramalevha and Joe Sibiya, SAEON Ndlovu Node

In March, SAEON’s Ndlovu Node together with the science engagement team from National Office held a successful two-day educators’ workshop on South African biomes for grade 10 Life Science educators. This was the first workshop trialling SAEON’s new Biomes of South Africa educator training manual.

Day one

The morning programme kicked off with the arrival of the educators. After the welcome address by Joe Sibiya, the Ndlovu Node’s outreach coordinator, and a brief introduction to the Biomes training manual by SAEON’s science engagement coordinator Kogie Govender, Caitlin Ransom from the National Office science engagement team gave a detailed presentation focusing on terrestrial biomes. The presentations were followed by activities highlighting the importance of these biomes, the role played by each organism in maintaining the biomes and how mismanagement of these biomes can threaten their survival.

An activity on elephants as savanna ecosystem engineers and a case study on drought further highlighted the need to better understand and appreciate our immediate environment. These activities resonated with the educators as the Ba-Phalaborwa municipality was one of the areas most affected by the 2014–2019 drought. The important role of elephants in the Kruger National Park was also highlighted.

Day one concluded with a Biomes bingo game during which educators were given images of the different biomes’ fauna and flora, highlighting the importance of visual learning when outdoor field trips are not possible.

Caitlin Ransom presents South Africa’s different biomes to the educators

Grade 10 Life Science educators participating in the workshop

Joe Sibiya presents an award to the winner of the Biomes bingo game

Day two

Day two started off with a recap of the previous day led by Caitlin Ransom. The educators were then taken on a virtual journey through the aquatic ecosystems of South Africa where they learned about ponds and lakes, streams and rivers, water pollution, wetlands, estuaries, oceans, intertidal zones, tidal territories and coral reefs.

An activity on river continuum highlighted how a river changes along its course and how aquatic invertebrates such as the shore fly and small minnow flies can be used to indicate water quality. Tsumbedzo Ramalevha of the Ndlovu Node explained how the node uses these invertebrates to monitor the water quality of the Olifants River, the source of the Ba-Phalaborwa community’s drinking water.

Day two concluded with a 60 seconds of South African Biomes game. The educators thoroughly enjoyed the game and demonstrated a competitive spirit displaying their knowledge of the different South African biomes. The activities and games in the training manual are easy to follow, making learning enjoyable and easy for the learners while ensuring long-term retention of the content.

SAEON Egagasini Node Science Teacher Day workshop

By Moddy Pikiso and Sivuyisiwe Mbede, SAEON Egagasini Node

“Inspiration through experimentation” was this year’s theme for the Science Teacher Day Workshop held in March.

The event was hosted by iThemba LABS at their facilities in Eerste River, Cape Town.

The workshop served as a platform for an array of science engagement entities to engage with teachers through exhibitions and workshops aimed at providing knowledge, support and tools to bring science to the classroom in an exciting, practical manner.

SAEON’s Egagasini Node was among the science engagement stakeholders in attendance. Representing the node was the science engagement team’s Thomas Mtontsi, Sivuyisiwe Mbede and Moddy Pikiso. The team was involved in presenting an exhibition and a workshop themed “Robots in the Ocean: a school science opportunity”.

In a solo presentation, Thomas Mtontsi presented a workshop centred on the background, data extraction and application of Argo floats. The teachers in attendance were in awe of the type of instruments (Argo floats) used in the ocean that bring ocean properties and dynamics into perspective.

SAEON’s Thomas Mtontsi conducts a workshop on the background and application of Argo floats (Photo: Sivuyisiwe Mbede)

Moddy Pikiso and Sivuyisiwe Mbede tell the teachers more about the science conducted at SAEON’s Egagasini Node (Photo: Thomas Mtontsi)

Moddy Pikiso (right) explains the Ski-Monkey underwater camera system and its applications to one of the educators (Photo: Thomas Mtontsi)

The entire team was involved in presentations at the exhibition, where educators gained insight into SAEON’s Egagasini Node and the contribution of its staff members to ocean science, ranging from research to science education outreach.

The day ended on a positive note as a significant number of educators expressed their interest in SAEON’s science engagement programme and in involving their schools in the workshops conducted by the node.