More than one third of the total number of visitors to the National Zoological Gardens of South Africa (NZG) are directly organised through educational activities for schools and higher educational institutions.
The NZG plays a vital role in learner development through stabilising the transition from one level of the formal education system to the next. It also provides a programme for youth development and for raising learners' awareness of careers in science and technology. Justice Bilankulu, an education officer at the NZG's Department of Conservation Education and Public Engagement in Science is responsible for the outreach programmes, which include lectures and exhibitions at science festivals around the country.
The NZG exhibition was a hit with learners who were attracted to the variety of Natural and Life Science materials on display.
Learners explore the exhibits at the NZG stand.
In conjunction with the National Research Foundation (NRF), of which the NZG is a national facility and the South African Agency for Science and Technology Advancement (SAASTA), the NZG has already participated in five key science festivals this year - in Johannesburg, Grahamstown, Polokwane, Mpumalanga and Kuruman. The aim of science festivals being held across the country is to create science awareness and to introduce high school learners to different career opportunities available in science.
SciFest Africa in Grahamstown is South Africa's largest science festival, with over 70 000 learners attending this year's event. The NZG exhibition was a hit with learners who were attracted to the variety of Natural and Life Science materials on display. At each of the events, Justice Bilankulu presented the lecture 'DNA: 'The blueprint of life' to learners, which demonstrates how DNA manipulation will affect our future.
Learners get to know more about careers in the Natural and Life Sciences.
Award-winning scientist Professor Chilidzi Marwala visits the NZG exhibition at Polokwane.
Kuruman and the SKA
In April 2012, Kuruman hosted their first ever science festival to coincide with South Africa's bid to host the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) telescope. The NZG and SAASTA were invited to exhibit and present lectures on DNA. The festival was held in the Mothibistad Science Centre over four days. In line with the theme, Breaking borders between Science and Community by rebuilding a culture of learning beyond limits, the festival was aimed at rebuilding the culture of learning and showing learners the fun side of science.
The Kuruman Science Festival's official opening involved several speakers, who set out to motivate the learners to adopt a culture of learning. Dr Eric Musekene, a member of the advisory board of the South African Weather Service, delivered the keynote address and rewarded five learners with R100 vouchers for correctly answering questions based on his speech.
Although the festival was not expected to attract as many learners as other science festivals around the country due to its remote location, it was attended by around 7 000 learners. The programme culminated in a function during which all participating organisations received certificates. Overall it proved to be such a well organised and enjoyable event that no one would have guessed it was Kuruman's first science festival. The NZG and SAASTA are looking forward to participating in future science festivals in Kuruman.
In the pipeline
There are three more science festivals in the pipeline for the NZG - in KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo and the Free State, not forgetting the National Science Week taking place from 30 July to 3 August 2012.
Claire Fordred, Intern, NZG
The National Zoological Gardens of
South Africa is a proud facility of
the National Research Foundation