Third-year Pharmacy student and chairperson of the UKZN mini-Habitable Plan Workshops (HPWs), Ms Weliswa Kunene and her team took a group of learners from Buhlebemfundo Secondary and Eric Mtshali Secondary Schools on an educational and fun-filled field trip to uShaka Marine World.
Habitable Planet Workshops are the flagship education initiative of the Alliance for Collaboration on Climate and Earth Systems Science (ACCESS), a platform hosted by the Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR). They introduce Earth Systems Science to high school learners through a South-African-centric lens. More than 280 school volunteers have been trained to roll out around 50 annual mini-HPW school programmes across all provinces.
The UKZN mini-HPW focuses on learners in Clermont and KwaDabeka townships who are exposed to science sessions/ practicals, career information, motivational talks and educational field trips.
The group that visited uShaka Marine World attended talks on climate/weather systems, oceans and currents, global warming, pollution and Durban’s biodiversity. They toured the aquarium, learning about the different marine species and science careers it offers and engaged in practical sessions on choral bleaching and the effects of acid-rain on our oceans. They were also treated to a dolphin show and lunch. The field trip was sponsored by ACCESS and the CSIR, with UKZN promotional items and brochures provided by the College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science.
The mini-HPW takes a holistic approach to expose learners to the sciences. ‘We make things fun and practical so that learners are inspired to love/preserve their environment and become scientists that help to address global and local issues,’ said Kunene.
Learners found the mini-HPW enjoyable, informative and inspiring. ‘From the uShaka visit, I learned that we are the solution to climate change and we need to conserve our environment for all living things,’ said Ms Lindelwa Ngwane, a Grade 9 learner from Eric Mtshali Secondary School. Mr Mlondi Khowa from Buhlebemfundo Secondary commented: ‘I enjoyed watching the dolphin show and hearing the message of protecting our oceans from pollution (especially plastic) because it harms marine animals like dolphins.’
Kunene runs the UKZN mini-HPW with fellow students Ms Amahle Masondo, Ms Bonginhlanhla Ndlovu, Ms Andiswa Sithole and Mr Peterson Zwane, and lecturer Dr Sibusiso Senzani (School of Laboratory Medicine and Medical Sciences). They run annual career days and have organised career talks in the School of Life Sciences and STEC@UKZN.
‘The UKZN initiatives run by Ms Kunene have been among the most impactful and consistent we have sponsored. We are very proud of her team’s work,’ said Dr Carl Palmer, ACCESS Education and Training Manager.
Future plans include a science tournament with six high schools and teaching computer software skills/coding.
Words: Sashlin Girraj