Camp hones natural curiosity

A group of 32 learners in Gr. 10, of four Kimberley high schools, par­ticipated in a three-day science camp at the Mokala National Park during National Science Week, held from 28 July to 4 August.

The participating schools were the Thabane High School, the Emang Mmogo Comprehensive School, the Vuyolwethu High School and the Greenpoint High School.

The camp was hosted from 2 to 4 August by the South African Environmental Observation Network (Saeon), Arid Lands Node, with the aim of exposing learners to the environmental and conservation field by conducting scientific research for various projects.

On the second day of the camp learners took up the role of junior scientists by conducting research in three projects: data collection on bird species, a miniSASS (derived from the South African Scoring System) activity and vegetative monitoring.

The vegetative monitoring exercise was done under the guidance of field technician Marco Pauw, who demonstrated to the learners the method used when measuring trees, and allowed the learners to do this practically.

This exercise aims to gauge the effects of climate change on vegetation biodiversity.

Citizen scientist Brian Culver taught another group of learners about data collection regarding bird species.

Learners watched birds using binoculars, and were taught how to identify the different species, as well as how to record this information.

Later in the afternoon learners were treated to a game drive while on the way to the Lilydale camp site, where they conducted mini­SASS activity at the Riet River under the watchful eye of Tshililo Ramaswiela, another field technician at Saeon.

The miniSASS activity is done to monitor the health of a river. It uses the composition of macro invertebrates living in rivers and is based on the sensitivity of the various animals to water quality.

On the last day of the camp, learners took turns to present their findings.

Science engagement co-ordinator Kogie Govender said that these camps were not only held during National Science Week, but were conducted throughout the year for learners from Gr. 9 to Gr. 11.

In order to participate, gr. 9 learners are required to fill in an application form and write an essay indicating why they would like to take part in the science camp and what scientific interest they may have.

Mpho Sekwati