July 2013
Contents / home
Debates winners in New York
SA learners scoop silver in Beijing
SA scientist impresses in FameLab
Nanotech draws attention in Kenya
SAASTA salutes David Block
Science Centre CEO awarded
Young science brainpower awarded
75 years of coelacanth research
Join in recording the diversity of life
Open your own Science Spaza
The Universe is expanding
"Space Skype" links kids
Coastal and marine science in SA
Internship programme
A scientist for a day
iThemba LABS - advancing knowledge
Ex ZooClub members' success
In the news
Upcoming events
It's a fact!

SAASTA Schools Debates winners hit the streets of New York

  Crawford College learners meet some of their counterparts at the Queens Vocational and Technical High School. They were accompanied by Lorenzo Raynard, Manager of SAASTA's Science Communication Unit (back row, centre).
  The learners were intrigued by the wide range of experiences on offer at the American Museum of Natural History, the sponsor of their all-expenses-paid trip.
  The learners hit the streets of New York to sample the charms of the famous metropolis.
  On the last day of their visit, the learners enjoyed the charming scenery of Central Park.
In August last year, the final round of the SAASTA National Schools Debates Competition ended in grand style, with the team from Crawford College in Pretoria out-debating the other finalists in the nanotechnology and space science topics. Their performance won them the grand prize of a four-day trip to the American Museum of Natural History in New York.

The Crawford team's first day in the Big Apple started off with a visit to the Queens Vocational and Technical High School, which turned out to be a true cross-cultural and social knowledge-based experience. The learners were welcomed by Melissa Burg, the principal of Queens, who gave them an insight into how the school's practical and technical training in science and technology assisted the learners in addressing social challenges and prepared them for a professional career. For many Crawford learners the highlight of the visit was to be introduced to Sade, the Frisbee-throwing robot designed by learners of Queens, which landed them the first place in the national robotics competition.

From the exchange of social media contacts at the end of the visit it was obvious that long-lasting multi-cultural friendships had been forged between Crawford and Queens.

American Museum of Natural History

On the second day of their visit, the group was taken on a guided tour of the American Museum of Natural History where they were introduced to phenomenal researchers such as Dr Chris Raxworthy, Ms Cristina Trowbridge and Dr Melanie Stiassny. Dr Chris Raxworthy gave them an overview of the museum's frog exhibit showcasing the delicate but intriguing world of frogs from across the globe. The Crawford learners were intrigued to learn that one of the African frog species was used as the first reliable method of detecting pregnancy among women.

From here they visited the museum's vast fish collection and got to "shake hands" with a coelacanth, the famous fossil fish. On this exclusive, behind-the-scenes tour of the museum the group was also able to meet other researchers and inspiring individuals who work for the museum.

The tour included a multi-cultural cuisine experience from the 'Global Kitchen' exhibition, which gave the learners a taste of traditional food from the various cultures that make up New York and gave them an insight into how the world's myriad of ethnicities connect through the food they eat.

This was followed by an Imax documentary, The Flight of the Monarch Butterfly, which introduced the learners to these magnificent butterflies as well as Fred Urquhart, the intrepid zoologist who led a 38-year effort to track the epic migration of the butterflies across North America.

A bite from the Big Apple

The learners were then taken on a shopping spree and a taste of what New York has to offer. Times Square's eternal festive spirit, the colossal New York library and centennial Grand Central were but a few of many remarkable sensory experiences that the learners were able to lap up, courtesy of the American Museum of Natural History's generous sponsorship of access and travel tickets. The excited learners were even treated to a Broadway Show, relishing in a 25-year-old theatre classic of illustrious dance and costume.

A few of the learners elected to go to the Upper East Side of New York to experience the famous art museums, specifically the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art where they viewed famous works of art, with Starry Night by Vincent van Gogh a definite highlight. On the last day of the visit, the group enjoyed the delights of Central Park's vast expanse of lush bushes and green overhangs.

Crawford educator Yvonne Reddy, who accompanied the learners on the trip, says that the National Debates competition has started a 'science oriented' conversation at their school, with parents and fellow Crawford schools sending in letters and communication about these debates. An article was published in their school newsletter as well as the Crawford Times, which is available to all Crawford schools in South Africa.

Reddy comments: "Clearly, SAASTA has provided an opportunity to expand on scientific knowledge and to enhance engagement on current scientific issues. The winning team is in constant dialogue with their peers about their engagement on the topics for the debates. There is, in fact, such excitement about science that the students and science teachers are now eager to know and learn about topics such as Nanotechnology and Earth Observation."

The learners declared the trip "a raving success". Not only did they get to experience a different lifestyle, but they eagerly soaked up large amounts of the history, culture and charm that the Big Apple has to offer.

By Daphney Molewa, SAASTA