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Science Outreach

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Science Outreach
Why the GFW Node is interested in Science outreach? Science outreach is a core focus area within SAEON. While the GFW node does not currently have a dedicated science outreach educator, the nodes staff and interns engage in various science outreach activities whenever possible to encourage science literacy, expose learners to different science careers and encourage enthusiasm for the sciences.
Calendar Gardens
The Calender Garden project was initiated by the SAEON Ndlovu Node. The project brings science and environmental awareness to schools in a fun and unique way. This project uses five plant species that have a clear flowering and/or leafing phenology. The plants are planted in special gardens at schools and the learners monitor and report back when each of the plants produces their first flower or leaf of the season. With changes in the seasonal timing of rainfall and earth atmospheric conditions, the phenology (timing of leaf production and flowering) will act as an indicator of a change in climate. For the comparison over a regional scale the project plans to roll out Calendar Gardens in schools across South Africa. The SAEON Grassland-Forests-Wetlands Node has partnered with the Wildlife and Environmental Society of South Africa (WESSA) to establish this project in the KwaZulu-Natal Province (KZN) on behalf of the SAEON Ndlovu Node. To date (2014) two Calendar Gardens have successfully been established, one at the KZN SANBI Botanical Gardens and the other at the Umgeni Valley Conservancy. An additional three Calendar Gardens are scheduled to be established at three schools, namely King's School, Shea O'Connor and Scottsville Primary later in 2014.
The Youth Environmental Science Conference. SAEON GFW node is excited to be participating in the annual Youth Environmental Science Conference (YESC). This event was the brain child of Charlene Russel (WESSA Eco-Schools programme), who recognised the importance of profiling science and mathematics in environmental education programs. The annual event is funded by PetroSA and NAMPAK, in association with NRF-SAEON (South African Environmental Observation Network), DUCT (Duzi Umngeni Conservation Trust), Eskom Expo and SASA (Sugar Association of South Africa). SAEON GFW team was involved in the 2014 event through: presenting a talk on “What Global change means for your science career”, assisting with the judging of science projects submitted, playing the “Know Your “ologies” game, demonstrating cool physics experiments to learners (equipment provided courtesy of University of KwaZulu Natal, Physical Science department), and sponsoring prizes for learners and teachers attending the event.
Enviro Clubs
Bringing Science to Environmental Clubs: Wherever possible the Grasslands-Forests-Wetlands Node tries to get involved in opportunities that expose learners to their environment and related career paths. News and updates on various visits that have been conducted with the GFW Node are described here. Mphomphomeni Environmental Club Visit Mphomphomeni Environmental club is part of the WESSA Eco-Schools program and is co-ordinated by Charlene Russell. Once a month learners between the ages 4 and 18 years meet outside a library in Mphomphomeni, a township just outside Howick, to learn about how they can care take of the environment. The Grasslands-Forests-Wetlands SAEON Node was invited to host the August meeting on the 2nd of August 2014. The Node enthusiastically accepted realising the opportunity for human capacity development. The aim of the visit was to expose and educate the children regarding different career paths, not only in science, but in the environmental field. The team (Sinethemba Ntshangase, Nasiphi Ntshanga and Sue J. van Rensburg) formulated a set of activities designed to help the kids align their passion for the environment with their career prospects. In addition to the Know Your –Ologies game, dramatic plays were put together by the kids and these were centred on environmental issues such as pollution and deforestation. The plays had a role for each of the different aspects that are linked to environmental issues, i.e economic, political, social and environmental. The exercise not only created awareness around environmental issues but inspired the kids to pursue careers in science and other field relating to environmental work.
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