May 2015
Contents / home
Learners to link up with astronaut
Shared Sky, shared wisdom
"Talking science" competition
A meeting of minds
Young scientists take on Australia
Learners unveil project in Beijing
Introduction to crystals
Young Science Communicators' Competition
SAASTA inspires class of 2015
Meet Prof. Nox Makunga
Top young achiever's journey
Wonders of water at Scifest Africa
Learners work with particle physicists
Meet SAEON's new education officer
Light comes out of the darkness
In the news
Upcoming events
It's a fact!

An introduction to the wonderful world of crystals

  Marthinus Schwartz (left) and Siyabonga Mthimkhulu (centre), both from Unizulu Science Centre and Palesa Nombula from UJ Soweto Science Centre attempt a crystallography experiment
  Sophie Mulaudzi from Vuwani Science Centre (left), Yuki Ishiada from the University of Limpopo (centre) and Prof. Vaith Sankaran from Vuwani
  Siphesihle Bukhosini from Isibusiso Esihle Science Discovery Centre (left), Lungile Mazibuko from Olwazini (centre) and Aderibigbe Isiaka from UJ Soweto Science Centre
  Joseph Sibiya, Sakhile Ntuli and Silindile Ntuli (behind Sakhile) from Mondi Science, Career Guidance and FET Skills Centre
With 2014 being declared the International Year of Crystallography (IYCr2014) by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), the Department of Science and Technology (DST) funded various activities relating to crystallography.

Crystallography was also the sub-theme for the 2014 National Science Week.

The DST's objective with these activities was to sensitise and educate high school learners about crystallography and show them how relevant it is in modern times. In addition, the activities were aimed at attracting youth to study science-related subjects that would lead to science careers.

Science kits

The DST appointed a service provider to design a science kit to demonstrate simple crystallography experiments to GET (general education and training) and FET (further education and training) students. The kit, which was distributed to science centres around the country, includes all materials (e.g. chemicals, students' and presenters' manuals and worksheets) necessary to complete all the tasks for which it was designed.

The chemicals selected are not harmful to users and are quick to form crystals. One of the chemicals, copper sulphate, forms crystals within eight hours and other chemicals such as borax form crystals overnight.

A concise manual clearly outlines a procedure on how the selected chemicals can be used to form crystals. It is easy to follow by anyone, including students who are not studying Physical Sciences. The experiments have a link to the GET and FET curriculum and take into consideration IYCr activities proposed by UNESCO.

Learning how to grow crystals

Eleven science centres from six provinces received science kits as part of the DST initiative. SAASTA invited a group of 18 facilitators from these centres to a training session in the use of the kits presented by Dr Mahlori Mashimbye, a director at the DST. The training took place at SAASTA from 25 to 26 February 2015.

With a good grounding in crystallography at the end of the workshop, participants were confident they could grow crystals using the kit, and could explain the concepts to learners of all ages. The science kits will be used to great effect by science centres to promote science awareness in the country.

Professor JD Bradley at Wits School of Education can provide information on how to get kits for a school or science club and what they will cost. He can be contacted at 011-717-3486 or at, or you can visit the website