#04 2020

SAEON kids iNaturalist competition: Science engagement in a time of Covid-19

By Caitlin Ransom, NRF/SAEON Science Engagement Intern

Globally the Covid-19 lockdowns have not only forced people to change how they interact with each other, but also with the world around them.

For many, spending more time at home has sparked a new interest in their immediate surroundings. They have become more aware of the birds visiting their gardens, the beautiful flowers in bloom or the tiny gecko living in their dining room.

As the SAEON Science Engagement team we wanted to find a way to encourage our learners (that normally join us at our Science Camps) and the SAEON staff kids to explore their gardens and collect biodiversity data.

Inspiring the learners to collect their own data is a key aspect of our Science Camps, but the Covid-19 restrictions have made a traditional science camp impossible. So, we decided to make use of iNaturalist – a citizen science project that enables people from all over the world to map and share their biodiversity observations. iNaturalist not only provides an easy-to-use platform but the supportive community helps with identification. This means that the learners can find out the names of the species they have found.

SAEON Kids projects

We created three SAEON Kids iNaturalist projects, for the grade 10 and grade 11 learners who joined us for our virtual science camps and for the SAEON staff kids (as part of the SAEON Staff Kids programme).

We launched these projects for the learners attending our science camps on 3 July and they ran until the respective science camps (grade 10s until 6 August and grade 11s until 28 August). We will be using the data collected as part of the science camps to expose the learners to data collection and analysis. The staff kids project ran from 16 July until 28 August.

As an incentive for our budding scientists to explore their gardens, the learner with the most observations for each project received a prize to make observing and identifying species a little easier. SAEON’s uLwazi Node has assisted us in creating beautiful infographics so that learners are able to see who is in the lead in their project category and how they are doing compared to their peers.

And the winners are…

Vinaya Pauly (who was supported by SAEON’s Ndlovu Node) added an impressive 543 observations, almost half of all the observations in the Grade 10 iNaturalist competition. The winner for the grade 11 competition is Sheranzo Basson from Mary Waters High School, supported by SAEON’s Elwandle Node.

Winner Vinaya Pauly added an impressive 543 observations, almost half of all the observations in the Grade 10 iNaturalist competition

Sheranzo Basson from Mary Waters High School in Grahamstown, the proud winner of the grade 11 iNaturalist competition