TTS22 Group photo

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Science Comes Alive

Natural Science
Do you see the Southern Cross?
Science has had a great start this semester as the TTS excursions and activities lend themselves to fantastic science learning opportunities.  Really, how can you beat three days cruising through Kruger National Park? Rock climbing and abseiling on the quartz sandstone of the mountains surrounding Waterval Boven? Hiking through grasslands, Acacia forests and highland brush? Camping under the Southern Cross constellation? Science dreamland!

Twiza (Shona for Giraffe) sighting in Kruger National Park

The science curriculum began with an overview of the biomes found in southern Africa including the fynbos, savannas, grasslands and forests, etc. We examined their main features and geographical distribution. Students then studied ecological concepts such as population distribution and growth rates, keystone species, types of diversity, r- and k-strategists, and, of course, allopatric and sympatric speciation.  These concepts are easy to comprehend when watching giraffes and hippos and other animals in the field! 

You can't see me!
In science class there is always a practical field work component taught along with the population ecology information and theory. During our time in Kruger, students applied animal behavior theory and methods to the study of five animals:  elephant, wildebeest, impala, zebra and baboon.  They collected behavioral data using ethogram data sheets, and learned how to produce an activity budget.  Another useful field skill students learned was techniques for pacing meter measurements.

As plants are principal to the understanding of any ecosystem (foundation of the trophic levels pyramid) class time was dedicated to looking carefully at the differences between plant life forms, and in particular, leaf arrangement types. Students are now able to distinguish between a monocot and a dicot in addition to seeing the difference between a simple-alternate and compound-opposite leaf arrangement.  Sound dull?  Not at all! Students enjoyed looking at plants around many of our campsites and now have made terms like 'inflorescence' and 'pubescence' roll off their tongues!

 As we travel on to settings more aimed to the social, historical and global studies focus, science classes are shifting towards environmental issues and opportunities in South Africa and beyond for class material.  Our most recent class focused on ecology and its role in poverty reduction. During this class, smaller groups discussed ecology's role/relationship to hunger, energy, disasters, water and disease. Students then compared their ideas to those of scientists and conservation professionals, and lastly orally presented their conclusions to the entire group. The students were both thoughtful and insightful in their brainstorming and conclusions. A great group of budding scientists!  

--Sylvia Seger


  1. Wow, what a great post. I'm so happy for our girls to have such a great teacher in such an amazing environment. Thank you Sylvia!

  2. you are very welcome! I love teaching these students because they are so exuberant and interested!