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SAEON makes science count at SciFest 2007


Ntuthuko Masikane (left), an MSc intern at the SAEON Elwandle Node, convinces learners that they are not too young to be scientists (Picture © SAEON)

'Make Science Count' was the theme for Sasol SciFest 2007 which was held in Grahamstown on 21-27 March.

This melting-pot for science outreach programmes from across the country was officially opened by Mr Derek Hanekom, Deputy Minister of Science and Technology. The programme consisted of no less than 680 events and activities ranging from lectures, workshops, talk-shops and exhibitions to field trips and tours, quizzes, apprenticeships and a Film Fest.

The Festival is a veritable Who's Who of everyone involved in science education outreach in one way or another. International contributions included participation by 17 renowned scientists from five countries worldwide. Strong South African representation included all the major universities, many state departments, state-owned enterprises and private sector companies. The research facilities of the National Research Foundation, including SAEON, were all present.

"You can be a scientist now!"

The entire SAEON team contributed to the concept and design of the stand. The end product turned out to be rather impressive, with an eye-catching message - 'You can be a scientist now!'. The SAEON team that worked tirelessly for eight days during SciFest, consisted of Mandisa Rubuxa and Ntuthuko Masikane, both MSc interns at the SAEON Elwandle Node, as well as Sibongile Mokoena from SAEON's National Office.

The SAEON stand attracted a lot of interest from learners, educators and the general public. A colourful and informative bookmark with information on 'projects you can do' and 'scientific skills you will apply', proved to be a valuable memento for teachers and learners alike. The interactive bird game turned out to be a real a crowd puller. Young and old, birders and beginners all got addicted to the game. The highlight was a mother who came to the stand during the weekend because her 12-year-old son insisted that the bird game was 'a must see and a must have'.

Sasol SciFest 2007 marked the 11th Anniversary of the launch of the project in 1997. A decade down the line, the Festival attracts some 40 000 visitors each year drawn from all over South Africa and its neighbouring states. Accordingly, Sasol SciFest has become one of South Africa's premier programmes in the promotion of public awareness of science, engineering and technology.

Closing the gap

In his opening address Mr Hanekom said that the intention of science festivals such as SciFest was to close the gap between science learnt in formal settings and science learned in non-formal settings. These festivals promote science for non-scientists and, through a creative and well structured programme, give those who attend the festivals a look into many different aspects of science, engineering and technology.

"Like the festival by-line, Make Science Count, they make the undisputable statement that South Africa has begun to make science count for our country and its people," he said. "Indeed, if there is any overarching goal that binds all of us here together, it is the fact that we share an interest in and a passionate concern for the public awareness of science in South Africa."

"We look forward to SciFest 2008," says SAEON's Sibongile," and we intend going there next year with even bigger and brighter ideas."

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