Thirteen teachers from schools in and around Phalaborwa met at Letaba Camp in the Kruger National Park (KNP) on February 18, 2006 to take part in the first Educator Support Workshop run by the Ndlovu Node of the South African Environmental Observation Network (SAEON).
The workshop forms part of SAEON's environmental science outreach programme. Over the weekend the teachers heard presentations from two of Kruger's scientists, Dr Andrew Deacon talking on biodiversity, and Hendrik Sithole on Kruger's invertebrates.
Manager of the Ndlovu node, Dr Dave Balfour, gave two presentations, one on the challenges faced by environmental managers in a constantly changing world, and another on the complexities and science of elephant management. Dr Rob Toms from the Transvaal Museum rounded out the weekend with a talk on mopani worm ecology and the sustainable harvesting of the caterpillars.
According to Dr Balfour, more weekends like this are planned for educators in the Phalaborwa region, as part of an action plan to help support environmental science teachers and improve science training in the region.
The Ndlovu node also hosts 'teacher's tea-rooms' at the node offices, to bring together science teachers in the region on a more regular basis. Balfour says that the outreach programme is also hoping to be able to identify those students who are "high flyers" in the sciences, and help them to get extra training so that they can follow a career in science.
The Ndlovu Node was the first node established by SAEON as part of a long-term ecological monitoring programme that hopes to gather ecological data from the public and private sectors that will help future generations develop environmental policies. The node focuses on the savanna ecosystem, and is in close partnership with the KNP and Sanparks. The initiative is funded by the National Research Foundation.