#03 2022

Inspiring learners to appreciate and protect our biodiversity

By Caitlin Ransom, Kogie Govender, Nozi Hambaze and Thomas Mtontsi (SAEON Science Engagement: National Office, Elwandle Node and Egagasini Node)

NRF-SAEON celebrated the International Day for Biological Diversity in May 2022 by hosting three events – an online celebration and two in-person workshops. The theme for Biodiversity Day 2022 was ‘Building a shared future for all life’.

The SAEON science engagement team kicked off their Biodiversity Day celebrations with an online event. Dr Tony Swemmer, manager of the SAEON Ndlovu Node, took learners on a global biodiversity journey. Through photos and maps, the learners got a sense of what biodiversity is and the locations where it is the highest around the world. Participants investigated past mass extinctions and discovered how high levels of biodiversity loss are evident around the world. Dr Swemmer used numerous polls to keep the learners engaged and to inspire them to think critically about biodiversity. The budding scientists asked many questions during this session, reflecting their interest in gaining more insight into biodiversity.

A presentation by Dr Dumisani Khosa of the South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity (NRF-SAIAB) took learners on a virtual journey around the world – and to South Africa’s rivers – through interesting and engaging discussions regarding some of the major threats to biodiversity and solutions to conserve or manage it.

The SAEON science engagement team hosted the 2022 SAEON Kids iNaturalist competition in which learners contributed to approximately 1 045 observations over 10 days. The winning learner of the 2022 iNaturalist competition was Vivek Pauly, who was supported by SAEON’s Ndlovu Node.

Learners use a practical GIS activity to add layers on a map (Photos: Nozipiwo Hambaze)

The Elwandle Node celebrated Biodiversity Day with grade 10 learners at Nyaluza High School. Lulama Matshamba introduced the learners to the theme and used a PowerPoint presentation to explain what biodiversity is. The main concepts taught were the classification of marine invertebrates and the importance of protecting biodiversity. Learners were also engaged in a classification activity, where they had to look at the description given and match it with the picture of the invertebrates on the cards.

Imkitha Makoyi, a data technician at the Elwandle Node, explained how Geographic Information Systems (GIS) are used to monitor biodiversity. She gave learners a background presentation on the concepts of GIS. The educator at the school commended the practical components of the programme and explained how these link to the school curriculum.

The Egagasini Node celebrated Biodiversity Day with grade 8–11 learners from Luhlaza High School. The focus of this celebration was to foster an understanding of the beauty and diversity found in a marine science context. The youngsters learned more about differentiating biomass, marine ecosystems, threats to biodiversity and the importance of ecosystem functions. They were divided into groups and instructed to study different marine ecosystems to develop an understanding of ecosystem function and threats.

After completing their worksheets, each of the learner groups were given the opportunity to present the marine ecosystem they studied, demonstrating knowledge, showing how their ecosystem differed from the rest and discussing the potential threat to the bigger group of ecosystems. Presentations and activities were facilitated by the Egagasini Node’s science engagement officer Thomas Mtsontsi and Zizo Mdingi from the Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa (WESSA).

The winner of the 2022 iNaturalist competition was Vivek Pauly, a participant in the Ndlovu Node’s education programme (Photo supplied)

Learners engage in an activity aimed at classifying marine invertebrates (Photo: Nozipiwo Hambaze)

This is what intrigued the learners most about the programme: 

  • How humans impact the water bodies and how I can play my part by positively impacting the water bodies.
  • Different ways we can reduce pollution and problems that affect our biodiversity.
  • To keep the environment clean.
  • I’ve learned how wetlands can reduce floods and purify water.
  • I learned the importance of protecting and conserving biodiversity.
  • Learning about the mass extinctions and about biodiversity as well as the importance of biodiversity and protecting and helping to protect the environment.
  • Extinction is inevitable.
  • I learned about biodiversity and extinction and rivers and wetlands.
  • Why we should care for biodiversity.
  • The number of insect species in the world is the majority group.
  • How biodiversity is so important for humankind.
  • I have learned that most of the ocean is yet to be discovered.
  • Due to humankind’s pollution, aquatic species suffer severe consequences which affect people economically and physically (health).
  • What measures we should take to save species and the importance of fresh water for aquatic species and for our animals.
  • How important biodiversity is and how it forms part of our everyday life.
  • I’ve learned that biodiversity consists of different ecosystems and species. Animals and plants are very important to us as humans, and it is our responsibility to take care of them. We must not pollute our environment or take part in any activities that can destroy nature.
  • Ecosystem biodiversity and the known species of the world, the difference in biodiversity across the world.
  • The biodiversity content, why there are so many species in the world, and how they are distributed through land and the ocean.