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.