October 2015
Contents / home
Global science engagement project
National Science Week activities
Science breaks barriers
Hydrogen fuel cell technology
Science that no classroom can teach
SAASTA empowers community
New CEO takes over reins at NRF
Hydrogen awareness website
Work shadowing at SAIAB
Field school for students
Meet Dr Zikhona Tetana
Improving technology education
Weather stations in schools
Street science
Space science appreciation
International Year of Light
Monitoring river health
Sasol Techno X prizes
In the news
Upcoming events
It's a fact!

National Science Week 2015 – Science breaks barriers

  Scifest Africa Director, Anja Fourie-Bruton, interact with children at the community science awareness day
  Research Collections Officer Nkosinathi Mazungula teaches children about the various specimens housed at SAIAB's collection facility
  Learners make jellyfish from plastic bottles in a workshop presented by Basil Mills, Education Officer at the National English Literary Museum (NELM)
  Basil assists a learner to make a jellyfish from a plastic bottle
  Basil and a group of learners with a whale skeleton made from plastic milk bottles and other recycled materials at the start of his "Sea World Enlightened" workshop
National Science Week, an initiative of the Department of Science and Technology (DST), is an annual country-wide celebration of science that involves stakeholders conducting science-related activities at multiple sites in all nine provinces simultaneously.

To celebrate National Science Week (NSW) 2015, the South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity (SAIAB), Scifest Africa, the National Arts Festival and the National English Literary Museum (NELM) joined forces to conduct a programme of activities aimed at learners, educators and the general public in the Makana District Municipality, Amathole District Municipality, Cacadu/ Sarah Baartman Municipality and Chris Hani District Municipality.

The programme kicked off on Saturday 1 August with the regional final of the Eskom Expo for Young Scientists facilitated by Scifest Africa. SAIAB offered a Gyotaku (fish-printing workshop) for some of the participants in the Expo while the judging of the projects was underway.

On Sunday 2 August the joint venture partners participated in a community science awareness day. Interactive displays and educational theatre interested and entertained participants, with the aim of educating and affording the community of Grahamstown the opportunity to interact with scientists and people who work in science.

Science road show

During the week a science road show, Scifest-on-the-road, took science shows, educational theatre and workshops around the theme of light to learners from schools in Cradock, Bedford, Adelaide and Grahamstown. NELM and SAIAB offered workshops centred on the theme of light to schools from Makana. Learners were introduced to deep sea creatures and made their own creatures from recycled materials picked up along the coast. Groups also had the opportunity to visit SAIAB's Collection Facility.

Two evening functions were held during NSW for members of the public. A well-attended Science Quiz Nite gave teams a chance to compete and learn from answering science-related questions. A Sci-Fi Movie Night facilitated by the National Arts Festival offered two movies – Interstellar and 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Scifest Africa held science demos at shopping malls, enthralling passers-by with kitchen chemistry demonstrations. The week's activities ended with the closing of the country-wide poster competition aimed at illustrating the concept of 'time' for Scifest Africa 2016.

Science communication workshop

In collaboration with the local newspaper, Grocotts Mail, SAIAB and Scifest Africa facilitated a workshop for Rhodes University Postgraduate Diploma students in Science Communication. The collaboration proved to be very successful, garnering extensive media coverage of NSW activities in the local newspaper and online.

It is hoped that this joint venture partnership, with all the activities on offer during NSW, will have gone some way towards meeting the strategic objectives of the DST, which include engaging with the public to popularise science, discovering the role science plays in our daily lives and making science appealing to school learners to promote science, engineering and technology as attractive career options.

SAAO celebrates NSW

The NSW activities organised by the South African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO) were spread across the Western and Northern Cape provinces. This year most of the outreach efforts targeted the general public, and those activities undertaken at schools had no link to the curriculum.

For the first time ever, SAAO staff visited an old age home in Observatory. The reception was overwhelming, and it soon became apparent that the senior citizens were up to date with current affairs as they mentioned innovations such as the New Horizon's fly-by. Some thought back with nostalgia to their school days and said they would have chosen science subjects had that been a field open to them. As a consolation, some mentioned how their grandchildren are pursuing exciting careers in science.

At the Mathematics and Science school in Constantia, Cape Town, the learners peppered SAAO staff with questions about the scientific methods used to understand astronomy concepts. SAAO staff left the school with a promise to attend the careers expo the following week.

The Langa community was treated to a public talk about indigenous astronomy presented by Themba Matomela from Iziko Planetarium. Although the attendance was poor, the community members who attended enjoyed the talk and Mr Matomela was invited to give a similar talk at another event.

NSW in the Northern Cape

In the Northern Cape, outreach was concentrated in the Namakwa region, Karoo Hoogland municipality and towns such as Calvinia, Loxton, Middelpos and Merville. The activities consisted of star-gazing, public talks and astronomy workshops focusing on telescope building.

Learners in the junior grades were treated to a DVD, "My room at the centre of the Universe" – a short film produced by local learners in Sutherland to explore Arts, Archaeology and Astronomy.

Women in science

On the Saturday morning, SAAO hosted two events directed at women. The first of these showcased careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics to high school learners from Langa, Gugulethu and Kuilsriver. The speakers at the event were Vanessa McBride and Sara Blyth (astronomers at UCT), Nicola Orford (Space Scientist from SANSA), and Nancy Payne (a Laser Light Scientist from Stellenbosch University).

In parting, SAAO's education officer, Ms Buzani Khumalo, told learners: "Being at high school is a great opportunity to start realising your future through making the right career choices."

On the Saturday evening, the SAAO's Dr Steve Crawford honoured South African women in astronomy at an event in celebration of Women's Day on Sunday, August 9.

Vanessa Rouhani and Andisa Bonani, SAIAB
Staff Writer, SAAO