October 2012
Contents / home
Peek into the real world of science
Honeybush research as a career
Quantum leap for Limpopo learner
National schools debates
Biotech at KZN Science Centre
SAASTA Annual Highlights Report
Mozambique exhibition
Science supports a dream
SAASTA hosts Critical Thinkers' Session
SAEON scientist responds to tragedy
Meet SAASTA's Moloko Matlala
iThemba LABS advances knowledge
SA Agulhas II momentous voyage
New guide for marine biodiversity
Youth Symposium
ZooClub wins gold at Eskom Expo
CARA clinics hook anglers
Skelton a Distinguished Old Rhodian
Mars may have "oceans" of water
Upcoming events
It's a fact!

SA Agulhas II A momentous voyage of discovery

  The SA Agulhas II, South Africa's newest research and supply ship.
  The five SAEON ambassadors at Cape Town International Airport at the start of their adventure.
  The learners get to know more about penguins at the South African Marine Rehabilitation Centre.
  Learners get involved in hands-on experiments on board the ship, meticulously recorded by the film crew.
  One of the learners releases a weather balloon that is used to collect information from the atmosphere.
When staff members of SAEON and the Department of Environmental Affairs' (DEA) Oceans and Coasts branch learnt that the SA Agulhas II - South Africa's newest research and supply ship - was scheduled to dock in Port Elizabeth harbour in August 2012, they decided to make use of the opportunity to organise a marine science education project on board the research vessel.

The project was specifically designed to improve the learners' understanding of marine sciences and to raise their awareness of the importance of the research being conducted by scientists at sea. The project also addressed the link between the marine environment, the terrestrial environment and human lives.

The responsibility fell to SAEON to organise five Port Elizabeth schools to participate in the project. DEA funded the costs of the preparations as well as transport and meals for the learners.

In addition, as a special privilege, one learner from each of the schools in the SAEON Egagasini education cluster in Cape Town was invited to attend this event. This represented a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for them, as they were flown to Port Elizabeth and sailed back on the ship to Cape Town courtesy of the DEA. The role of these learners was to interact with scientists and take part in the wide range of activities planned for their journey to Cape Town.

It was truly inspiring to witness how educators and learners rallied to participate in the event. As only one learner from each school was invited, a fair selection strategy was devised in the form of a competition worksheet. The help of the educators was enlisted to distribute the competition worksheets to the learners, who were given a week to research and complete the worksheet. On the day the winners were announced, a production company was there to film the event and to interview the candidates individually, both in class and at home.

SAEON ambassadors

The SAEON ambassadors' journey began on 3 August 2012 when they arrived at Cape Town International Airport accompanied by their excited parents and teachers. The production crew filmed the entire trip. When the youngsters arrived in Port Elizabeth, the learners from the local schools had already toured the vessel and the accompanying exhibition. The SAEON ambassadors were taken on a tour of the vessel as well as the exhibition.

That evening they attended a cocktail event aboard the vessel presided over by the Eastern Cape provincial MEC, the Director-General and a Deputy Director of Environmental Affairs, and a member of the National Department of Finance. The guests not only celebrated the homecoming of the Agulhas II from its maiden voyage, but also the scientists who sailed the Southern oceans and braved harsh conditions to do their research. The importance of the vessel was highlighted in providing a scientific research platform towards improving the quality of life of our communities.

Young and future scientists

The presence of the young and future scientists (SAEON's five ambassadors) was acknowledged and they were given an opportunity to introduce themselves and tell the audience how it came about that they were able to participate in the event. The SAEON ambassadors' confidence and eloquence impressed everyone present.

The next day, August 4, was an open day for the public, and visitors arrived in great numbers to view the Agulhas II. SAEON's staff members were on duty at the exhibition, informing the public about SAEON and using the Magic Planet to demonstrate science-orientated events. The SAEON stand attracted a great deal of interest, especially from learners who were fascinated by the Magic Planet.

The SAEON ambassadors had a busy schedule. They interacted with the public at the exhibition and their participation was a great success overall. They also visited the South African Marine Rehabilitation Centre (SAMREC) where they were given an overview of the Centre's activities and got to see the penguins.

Setting sail

That evening the vessel set sail for Cape Town. During the two-day trip the learners had the opportunity to interact with scientists and carry out hands-on scientific research. They were briefed on how research experiments are conducted during voyages to the Southern ocean and were given an opportunity to participate in some of the experiments normally conducted in Antarctica.

The youngsters learnt how to use the CTD (an observation tool used to measure conductivity, temperature and depth), collected data, and used the multi-nets to sample zooplankton and phytoplankton. They also interacted with South African Weather Services staff members who enlisted their help in releasing the weather balloon that is used to collect information from the atmosphere, providing data of possible future weather conditions.

In keeping with the DEA theme of "Unlocking the secrets of the Earth", each of the scientists involved gave presentations on their specific field of work and shared their research findings with the learners. The excitement of the learners was tangible, and the questions they asked reflected their interest in the research and their eagerness to learn.

The film crew recorded every aspect of the learners' experiences on this momentous voyage of discovery.

By Thembelihle Mlokoti, Intern, SAEON Egagasini Node