April 2014
Contents / home
FameLabSA 2014
Science Lens winners
Young, innovative and gifted
Intern receives Fellowship in Paris
Transformation in marine science
Looking for the brainiacs of yesteryear
Skies alive with space activities
Training the trainers
On your marks ... Get SET Go!
Schools debates advisory committee
Science community volunteers
The science of giving back
New science communication resource
Bringing nanotech to the disabled
Meet media guru Daryl Ilbury
Water World @ Scifest Africa 2014
Exploring marine science
Sharks, vegetables and alien fish
SAIAB cares
In the news
Upcoming events
It's a fact!

Training the trainers of our future biotechnologists

Cutting-edge technologies like biotechnology and nanotechnology do have a place in the school curriculum, but educators often find it difficult to convey the knowledge of these fascinating, fast-changing fields to their learners.

Educators in Pinetown present their group project on the topic of artificial insemination and cloning

Realising this, the Department of Science and Technology's (DST) Public Understanding of Biotechnology (PUB) programme, managed by SAASTA, initiated educator training sessions on biotechnology in 2009.

Educator workshops and manuals

SAASTA's Science Education Unit has been running educator workshops all over the country on behalf of PUB, a SAASTA programme that promotes a clear understanding of the potential of biotechnology and also ensures broad public awareness, dialogue and debate on current and potential future applications, including Genetic Modification (GM). A well-researched and comprehensive folder with material related to the subject has been compiled and printed and a group of biotechnology specialists has been facilitating the workshops, using these manuals, over the years.

Four such two-day workshops have been conducted recently by Drs Renata Rebello, Mauritz Venter, Tony Lelliot and Professor Valerie Corfield: in Stanger and Pinetown in KwaZulu-Natal, and at the National Zoological Gardens of South Africa and Johannesburg Zoo in Gauteng. About 200 educators - 50 to 60 per workshop on average - benefitted from these workshops in the past year.

Dr Renata Rebello tells a group of educators in Pinetown how to explain DNA profiling and forensics to learners (she referred them to this website for further information)
Dr Renata Rebello explains insulin production using biotechnology to the educators in Pinetown


Topics that are covered include basic biotechnology concepts such as forensics, biotechnology and plants, medicines, evolution and genetics.

"What a smart bunch of educators!" says Dr Renata Rebello of the delegates at the workshop in Pinetown. "The group represented a few 'underperforming' schools, to the second-best performing school in the Province. They had a lot of fun with the cloning activity and they showed creativity, cultural pride and team-work ethics. It was really wonderful to behold," she adds. The facilitators frequently received positive comments from educators about the use of props like play-dough, pipe-cleaners, papers, pegs, beans, etc. to teach concepts.

Study courses and career opportunities are often covered in the workshops, which the educators find very useful. "Some even told me they would like to study further themselves," says Renata.

Educators have indicated that they feel empowered by the workshop. "Many educators benefitted from attending the workshop. If this, in turn, can benefit many learners, SAASTA has achieved its aim (and so have I)," writes Renata in her report.