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SAEON sets science alight at Scifest Africa


The SAEON stand at Waterworld. Athi Mfikili, an MSc student at SAEON’s Elwandle Node (left), explains the node’s work in coastal monitoring to interested learners


SAEON Education Officer Omphile Khutsoane (left) and a group of girl learners discuss careers in the environmental sciences

By Sibongile Mokoena, Education Outreach Coordinator, SAEON

Scifest Africa is an annual highlight on the calendar of many organisations that play a role in promoting science education and science careers.

This year was no exception, and SAEON was there - visible, active and interacting with the 68 000 visitors, mostly learners, who attended Scifest Africa 2015, which was held in Grahamstown in March.

The theme for this year was "science alight". In choosing this theme, Scifest Africa joined other countries in celebrating 2015 as UNESCO's International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies.

The science festival was opened by Dr Thomas Auf der Heyde on behalf of the Minister of Science and Technology, Naledi Pandor. In his address Dr Auf der Heyde, the Deputy Director General of Research Development and Support at the Department of Science and Technology, mentioned the benefits of new technologies such as electromagnetism.

He told learners that, as young South Africans, they were in poll position to take advantage of these new technologies, but cautioned them that they would only be able to do so if they excelled at Science and Maths.

In her address NASA’s Chief Scientist, Dr Ellen Stofan, also urged learners to take subjects such as Maths and Science seriously as they are critical in determining the future of the universe. Dr Stofan said Scifest Africa served as a wonderful inspiration for the next generation of explorers.


SAEON exhibited at two major Scifest venues - Waterworld and the 1820 Settlers National Monument. Waterworld, which was hosted by the South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity (SAIAB) accommodated various organisations with a focus on marine sciences.

Learners were exposed to different types of equipment used in marine research and had ample opportunity to talk to marine scientists about their fascinating work and careers.

SAEON’s Magic Planet once again proved its worth as a teaching tool. While younger learners became engrossed in seeing and naming the oceans and were thrilled to be shown the bottom of the ocean, older learners found the demonstration of tectonic plates fascinating.

1820 Settlers Monument

The Settlers Monument site was packed with thousands of learners who had come to spend days in Grahamstown to ensure they do not miss out on anything at Scifest. The SAEON stand on the site attracted a lot of attention and learners asked many questions about the different biomes where SAEON is engaged in long-term monitoring.

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A delegation from the Department of Science and Technology visited the SAEON stand. Mr Leluma Matooane (left) and Prof. Yonah Seleti (right) with SAEON’s Omphile Khutsoane, Thomas Mtontsi and Sibongile Mokoena

Enthusiastic learners engage with Thomas Mtontsi, education officer at SAEON's Egagasini Node (left) as he uses the Magic Planet to demonstrate different features of the Earth

"Three!" That’s how many years Kwanda Ndinga, a grade 9 learner from Gqira Secondary School in the Transkei (centre) has been visiting the SAEON stand at Scifest Africa

The SAEON Kids

The SAEON Kids is a support programme for learners in Grade 10 selected from schools participating in the SAEON Elwandle Node’s education programme. The SAEON Kids visit Scifest under the Elwandle Node’s care and guidance where they attend workshops, talks and science shows such as the Amazing Laser Show, a must-see for every kid who visits Scifest.

In this way SAEON adds value and meaning to the Scifest experience.


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