Iimbovane reaching out to educators and learners

The Iimbovane Outreach Project has recently been involved in several outreach activities which involved the teaching of biodiversity to learners and educators from secondary schools in the Western Cape.

Iimbovane Winter Week — a huge success

As part of the Iimbovane Outreach Project’s goals to improve the understanding of biodiversity among high school learners, the project hosted a five-day learner workshop for selected learners from Iimbovane’s partnership schools. The Winter Week, which took place from 24th – 29th June 2012, was attended by Grade 10 learners from high schools including Lavender Hill SS (Retreat), Atlantis SS (Atlantis), Vredendal SS (Vredendal), Breërivier SS (Worcester), Malibu SS (Blue Downs), Sarepta SS (Kuilsrivier), Manzomthombo SS (Blue Downs) and Luhlaza SS (Khayelitsha).

This five-day event exposed learners to the importance of careers in biodiversity science, sharpened their scientific skills and broadened their experience of biodiversity observation and monitoring. With a programme filled with fieldwork excursions, practical laboratory sessions and data handling lectures, there was not a minute to spare.

Learners exploring soil biodiversity

Learners exploring soil biodiversity in the Tygerberg Nature Reserve.

The programme kicked off with fieldwork in the Tygerberg Nature Reserve where the learners were introduced to methods and apparatus for sampling soil biota. The investigative skills of the learners were then put to the test when learners were expected to design their own biodiversity surveys with the guidance of the Iimbovane project team members. Pitfalls were planted, rocks were overturned and vegetation was inspected, leaving the learners with containers filled with unknown invertebrates to identify. The next step was sorting and identifying the samples collected in the field using microscopes and a basic scientific key.

Learners examine freshwater biodiversity

Learners using magnifying glasses to examine freshwater biodiversity.

Learners were furthermore introduced to the rich diversity of the fynbos biome during a visit to the Harold Porter Botanical Gardens in Betty’s Bay. Examining Freshwater biodiversity was also on the programme with a session presented by Jeanne Gouws, Freshwater Scientist at Cape Nature. The learners were in for a cold and wet surprise when Ms Gouws showed the learners how to conduct a river assessment using freshwater invertebrates.

No research is complete without data analysis and the interpretation of the data, however. To show the learners how biologists use simple indexes to determine species diversity and richness, the learners were treated to a work session in the computer laboratory. Learners used basic word processing and data analysis software to make sense of their data and each group presented their findings to the rest of the class (using PowerPoint).

Learners not only enjoyed the excursions and fieldwork, but came away with a greater understanding of the value and importance of biodiversity, key threats to the different biomes in South Africa and the wide range of career opportunities available in this field.

“I never knew there was so much biodiversity right beneath our feet. I always thought there is only one kind of ant and that all ants look the same”, commented one of the learners while examining soil invertebrates under the microscope.

The Iimbovane Biodiversity Winter Week was made possible through funding from AfriSam and the Rand Merchant Bank Fund.

USA educators enthused by Iimbovane

On Wednesday, 4 July 2012, the Iimbovane project team hosted a group of educators from the Global Environmental Teachings (GET) Programme. The visiting group consisted of eighteen educators from schools in the United States of America and South Africa. The workshop programme started with the Iimbovane project team giving an overview of the project’s research and outreach goals and was followed by a practical ant identification session whereby the visitors tried their hand at identifying a variety of ant species.

The visitors commended the project team for the manner in which they raise the awareness about biodiversity and science among the youth, especially among the youth from previously disadvantaged communities, who often have a poor understanding of biodiversity.

The group was so inspired by the project that they wrote a small poem for the Iimbovane project team:

Ode to an ant

Iimbovane host educator workshop at Cape Winelands Environmental Expo

The Iimbovane Outreach Project inspired educators during a recent educator workshop at the 3rd Annual Cape Winelands Environmental Expo & Youth Conference 2012. The Expo, hosted by the Cape Winelands District Municipality, took place at Nelson’s Creek Wine Estate on 22 June 2012.

This year’s theme was Green Economy and focused on environmental aspects such as biodiversity, wildlife conservation and climate change. Iimbovane, which has a long history in biodiversity monitoring, jumped at the opportunity to provide educators with a useful and easy to implement experimental design that is in line with their curriculum requirements. The presentation given by the Iimbovane team introduced educators to the diverse world of ants, after which the educators were shown how to use ants in their biodiversity lessons. The workshop was attended by approximately 45 educators from various schools in the Cape Winelands Education District.

The presentation was well received by the audience and educators were eager to share their new knowledge with colleagues that had missed the workshop.

To read more about the Iimbovane Outreach Project, visit