Pupils enjoy fun day of learning at science centre

Jaydeen Innes, from Woodville Primary School, plays mind ball.

Woodville Primary School pupils downed their pencils and books for a day to shoot plastic bottle rockets, build foam walls and let gravity take its cause.

Grade 3 pupils had a fun filled learning experience at the Cape Town Science Centre, in Observatory, on Wednesday January 24, coinciding with the International Day of Education.

Their trip was hosted by non-profit Primary Science Programme (PSP), in partnership with Coronation Fund Managers, who joined forces to reignite the passion for mathematics and science among pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds in Cape Town.

PSP director Dr Zorina Dharsey said international benchmarks show that South African pupils were under-performing in science at Grade 5 and Grade 9 level, the years in which they are assessed, as compared to their peers around the world.

“Children from Singapore, Taiwan and China outperform our learners on science by more than double. Our children struggle most particularly on problem-solving in maths and science,” she said.

Dr Dharsey said one of South Africa’s challenges was that science is only introduced as a subject at Grade 4, when ideally it should be introduced at early childhood development (ECD) preschool level.

“Our facilitators work with teachers to guide them on how to teach science in fun, exciting ways using readily available materials and using a hands-on, minds-on, words-on and hearts-on methodology. We show teachers what is possible in the classroom,” she said.

Through the placement of specialist science education facilitators in classrooms, they have successfully infused an element of fun into these critical subjects.

Najma van der Fort, a Grade 3 teacher, said it was amazing to have their pupils visit the science centre.

“We don’t have all this science equipment at school and they are really enjoying all the experiments they get to participate in here,” she said.

She said it meant a “big deal” to the children because many of them come from very disadvantaged homes and never get to go anywhere.

“Many of the children didn’t leave their homes or Mitchell’s Plain at all during the holidays. This is their first outing in months, so it’s extremely exciting,” said Ms Van Der Fort.

Reagan Tama and Nadeem Verkuil build a foam wall together.
Faith Leibrandt, Faith Ryneveld and Muzzammil Keffers, wave from inside a rocket.