August 2019

Playful learning

Modikwa Eco-Club’s visit to Mogalakwena Research Centre

By Anne Hannemann

On Thursday 1 August, we invited 40 pupils of the Modikwa primary school Eco-Club to Mogalakwena Research Centre to enjoy a day of learning while playing six educational games. The games were designed especially for the pupils and were based on the research projects that are conducted by the students of the Research Centre. The students gave a short introduction of their project to the pupils and involved them by playing a game based on their specific topic. The games included the use of a microscope, the use of a pair of binoculars, monkey olfactory senses, skull identification, giraffe memory game and a snare removal activity.

Upon their arrival at Mogalakwena, we could see that they were really enthusiastic and eager to begin the games. Each group came up with their own group name, which resulted in the most creative names and beautiful stickered faces. For me it was one of the most amazing experiences to see all those happy faces, as the pupils walked from game to game while singing and dancing. The pupils were really driven to finish all the games as best as possible and get as many points as they could. At the end of the day the cue was to combine letters to spell out “the Eco-centre”, where they then found cupcakes and drinks waiting for them. After the treats, the winning group was announced, and the day was ended with a great performance of singing and dancing by the pupils. It was a beautiful day, one which I will never forget.

 

July 2019

The Twins at Mogalakwena Research Centre

Loes & Jule’s internship experience

By Loes & Jule van Hout

We are Jule and Loes van Hout and together we spent 16 awesome weeks at Mogalakwena Research Centre. For our study Applied Biology at HAS University of Applied Science in The Netherlands, we had the opportunity to do an internship abroad during our third year. Therefore, we went looking for a company in South Africa which conducts research on animals and this is how we found Mogalakwena Research Centre. It was a new, but also a cool adventure to look forward to.

Arrived in South Africa and Mogalakwena Research Centre, we noticed that MRC is managed by just a few people; Tanja van de Ven, Grietjie Stander and Portia Phokela. Therefore, you work in a really nice atmosphere and it makes it easy and comfortable to work with. They are very motivated to help you, share their knowledge and let you explore the nature and culture. During our 16 weeks of internship we studied the herpetofauna and the aardvark burrow occupancy within the reserve. We received good supervision during our internship, in which Tanja, Grietjie and Portia joined us in the field to support and guide us. We enjoyed our studies and learned a lot about it. Besides our own study, we were able to help and participate in different activities to explore this reserve, the nature and culture. These were activities such as marking trails within the reserve, counting birds, monitoring bird nests, hanging up and analysing camera traps, but also way more!

During the internship we lived in Bushcamp with other interns and close to the people who work here. We lived with a great group of people in Bushcamp, which made our time unforgettable and which enriched us with new, but very important friends. We worked hard, but we were also having a lot of fun and we were able to explore by trips and activities within and outside the reserve. We enjoyed our time so much and we will never forget this place, the nature, the culture and all the people around us. We have gained a lot of knowledge and new skills, but also improved the skills we already had during this internship. Therefore, we would like to recommend everyone who loves being in the nature, being surrounded by the South African animals in their natural habitat and explore the world to come to Mogalakwena Research Centre to broaden their passion and to go out for an adventure!

 

February 2019

Funky stools made from eco-bricks

Modikwa Eco-Club’s Eco-brick project

By Hannah Dyke

Portia Phokela, the Mogalakwena Research Assistant, has been running a recycling project with Modikwa primary school Eco-Club. Portia has been teaching the children about recycling, by collecting plastic bottles and filling them with plastic waste to create eco-bricks. After the children’s hard work, we wanted to build something from the bricks, to show the club what they achieved. All we had to do now was think of what to build!

Portia’s eco-club takes place in the school playground, under the shade of an umbrella thorn. The children normally sit on the floor or take chairs from their classrooms. We thought it would be lovely to build seating under the tree, to create a permanent eco-club classroom. Enabling a designated area for their environmental education, made from recycled material and therefore, reflecting the clubs’ environmental values. From this we brainstormed and researched various building techniques. We needed a design that was simple and could be easily replicated. The ability to replicate the building was crucial as Portia intends to keep this project ongoing by continuing to collect eco-bricks with the children. This project extends the children’s education in recycling, further reduces waste in the community and creates more seating for the eco-club classroom. Taking all of this into consideration, we created our own eco-stool design. All we needed was an old bucket, cement, a little string and our trusty eco-bricks.

Portia and I made a total of 8 stools, which we took to the school on the 28th of February. The eco-club children were very excited to see that their hard work had been made into something colourful and useful. We spent the afternoon with the children, having fun painting a couple of the stools.
I’ve truly loved working on this project. My two favourite events being collecting waste with the children, them of course showing me all the tips and tricks to make the best eco-brick. Then, watching the students decorate two of their stools. They carefully selected the colours and shared round the paint brushes, to make the stools truly their own. I’m thrilled that Portia will continue the project and excited to see what else they build with the eco-bricks.


November 2018

What is a better introduction to science than a Nature Treasure Hunt?

 

Modikwa Eco-Club’s visit to Mogalakwena Research Centre

By Estelle Leroux

Our research assistant, Portia Phokela, is eco-mentor of the Eco-Club of the Modikwa primary school in Simson. Eco-clubs are part of the Children in the Wilderness program which offers learners with an interest in nature and the environment the opportunity to interact and learn about environmental issues and sustainable living. Usually Portia visits the school, but this time the learners of the Eco-Club were invited to visit the Mogalakwena Research Centre (MRC) to take part in a very exciting Nature Treasure Hunt. The treasure hunt was organised by the eco-mentors and the students of the Research Centre. Divided in four teams, each team had to find clues based on descriptions of animals and trees.

With the use of a treasure map, the learners practised to navigate by finding landmarks and eventually the treasure. During the hunt, the Eco-Club learners were introduced to the reserve and to the various research projects undertaken by the Research Centre. They were demonstrated how to test the learning ability of vervet monkeys, explored what animals use a baobab tree for shelter and they used the binoculars to find crocodiles (“kwena” in Northern Sotho) in the river. By using a microscope, the learners were able to examine familiar insects like they had never seen them before. They also discovered that a scorpion turns fluorescent purple when lit with a UV light and they were very impressed by the size of the giraffe and the length of the snake skeleton at the Eco-Centre. While finding the one clue after the other clue, we saw other animals like: nyalas, impalas, warthogs and vervet monkeys.

The treasure hunt was a very fun afternoon, filled with facts about the different species studied at Mogalakwena. The MRC students gained experience in presenting their research projects and the Eco-Club learners gained insight in the research that is being done ‘at their neighbours’: a wonderful educational experience for all parties involved. We finished the afternoon with snacks, games and lots of dancing.