#05 2020

Virtual Grade 10 science camps connect learners with tomorrow’s skills today

By Joe Sibiya, Science Engagement Officer, SAEON Ndlovu Node and Kogie Govender, Science Engagement Coordinator, SAEON National Office

SAEON’s Science Engagement team transitioned to virtual environmental science camps for SAEON Kids to maintain continuity in our interactions with the learners and to enhance their exposure to environmental science.

The virtual camps used the G-suite and Zoom platforms, introducing many of the SAEON Kids to the virtual space. The virtual camps facilitated cognitive as well as socio-emotional learning. The latter was enhanced when learners conducted activities in small groups in the break-out rooms. All SAEON Kids were provided with data from SAEON. The virtual camps enabled learners not only to interact with scientists but with learners from different locations in South Africa.

The evaluation forms completed by the SAEON Kids indicated that many of the budding scientists were inspired by the virtual camps. The pre- and post-camp quiz results validated that they had gained a significant amount of knowledge in the different topics facilitated by scientists from SAEON and from partner organisations.

Grade 10 Virtual Marine Science Camp

The interesting and engaging presentations and activities by facilitators from the SAEON Egagasini Node and University of Cape Town (UCT) Women in Science presenters captivated the grade 10 learners. Presentations and activities by Jenny Veitch, Moagabo Ragoasha and Laura Braby introduced learners to ocean circulations, waves and currents. Learners enhanced their understanding of physics through calculations as they learnt about the formation and wave speeds of tsunamis.

Grant van der Heever introduced the youngsters to ocean observations and an array of marine science instruments that are used to collect and analyse data, followed by an engaging activity on marine science instruments which everyone enjoyed. A presentation on biogeochemical cycles by Dr Thulwaneng Mashifane captured the interest of learners when they learnt about the interactions between the atmosphere, land and the ocean.

The camp concluded with an interactive presentation by former SAEON Kid Tania Duba on earth’s energy systems, oceans and air temperature, weather and climate, climate change and variability, which sparked an interesting discussion on climate change. An interview with women oceanographers Thando Mazomba and Kolisa Sinyanga from UCT inspired some of the learners to consider a career in the marine sciences.

Participants included 27 learners from different parts of South Africa and one educator.

Grade 10 Terrestrial Science Camp

Galaletsang Keebine, a junior data scientist at SAEON’s uLwazi Node, gave an interesting presentation that included a practical data visualisation exercise using the data collected by learners during the iNaturalist competition. Covering topics such as the importance of data visualisation, do’s and don’ts and examples of data visualisation, the presentation motivated at least one of the SAEON Kids to consider following a career in data science.

Caitlin Ransom, Environmental Science Education intern at the SAEON National Office, gave an outstanding presentation on South African Biomes using the polls, which learners thoroughly enjoyed. Her presentation and activities were integrated in Articulate to demonstrate the relationship between the dominant vegetation or organisms and the rainfall patterns of each biome.

Furthermore, Caitlin presented an introduction to miniSASS prepared by Tshililo Ramaswiela, a technician at SAEON’s Arid Lands Node. Caitlin explained that miniSASS is a water quality analysis tool that measures macroinvertebrate presence to determine river health. Learners participated in an activity to calculate the score and determine the ecological condition of the river.

Dr Dave Thompson, a biodiversity scientist at SAEON’s Ndlovu Node, gave an engaging presentation and facilitated collaborative activities on the classification and identification of organisms. He emphasised that biologists classified or grouped organisms based on the similarities or differences in their characteristics like we do with object sorting in our kitchens or wardrobes.

Dr Thompson used Zoom breakout rooms for collaborative activities to enable the learners to interact with their peers. He illustrated how the presentations on data visualisation and biomes used the classification and identification of organisms to categorise observed species during the iNaturalist competition, as well as to identify and name biomes.

What the learners enjoyed most about the camps

“I enjoyed the presentation on waves and global warming because it made me understand more about our environment and the world’s climate.”

“The interview between sis Kolisi and Thando. I learnt a lot about their marine careers and experience.”

“I enjoyed this camp because it was my first online camp and I never expected to be part of it.”

“Learning more about the sea and marine life.”

“Knowing more about the equipment used to discover all this wonderful information.”

“I enjoyed learning more about the ocean and the different ways in which research is carried out. The reason for this is that it is my nature to be curious, so when there is a chance to learn something new, I really appreciate it. The ocean is one of my favourite holiday destinations so that also contributed to my reasoning. Thank you for this opportunity.”

“Types of surface waves, because I did not understand much about that when I was taught at school.”

“The presentations, which gave us relevant information that we will use in the future if we are to pursue careers in marine biology.”

“Quizzes, because they helped me to see what I do not understand.”

“It is trying out a new way of talking to people around the country by using the Zoom app and also learning about the marine environment and how the scientists work in order to get the sample and to test it.”

“I enjoyed all the lessons. I learned about the types of graphs used while collecting data and as scientists you know how to use different graphs.”

“I enjoyed the part of interpreting data and that of classification.”

“MiniSASS, because it was the most understandable presentation.”

“The interactions with different people from different places.”

“I enjoyed learning about the different biomes of South Africa because I love learning about South Africa. After understanding the concept so clearly, it will help me in Life Sciences. All in all, the camp was informative, enjoyable and highly engaging. Thanks for this great opportunity.”

“Learning new things that will help me in my school when we’re writing our exams.”

“The lesson about how to differentiate between species. I enjoyed it because it really helped me understand more about the animals and plants.”

“I enjoyed it when we were taught about the biomes in South Africa. That is the chapter we are currently doing at school. This camp gave me a lot of information.”

Screenshots of the grade 10 virtual marine science camp participants and presenters