SALT representatives visit King-Shaka High School
Representatives from SALT's international partnership, local dignitaries and education officials were treated to a majestic display of traditional Zulu dancing, singing, drum majorettes marching along to a brass band and poetry readings all performed by learners attending the King-Shaka High School in Umlazi, Durban on the 25th October 2007. This celebratory event took place to mark the commencement of a relationship between the school and SALT under the auspices of the SALT collateral benefits program (SCBP).
The SALT collateral benefits program (SCBP) has been actively promoting mathematics, science and technology education along with supporting and initiating programs designed to assist socio-economic development since SALT's conception. The program focuses primarily on the Western Cape and Northern Cape regions within South Africa and SCBP division manager Kevin Govender was delighted to exploit the opportunity to hold such a high profile event within the KwaZulu-Natal region.
Learners at the school benefitted from direct interaction with Kevin Govender and SALT astronomer Nicola Loaring who introduced the students to SALT and provided advice on careers in science and technology. The ensuing discussions on astronomy and the role of science in society particularly impressed Nicola who was struck by both the maturity displayed and passionate and ambitious nature of the students. One of the direct outcomes of the days events was a pledge by learners to set up a science club at the school with a commitment of assistance from SALT staff.
The students had ample opportunity to experience for themselves that not only is science useful but it can be fun too! The discovery mobile bus from the UniZul Science Centre was brought onsite to the school especially for the day and learners poured in in droves to experiment with the hands on exhibits. Mr Mdumiseni Nxumalo from the UniZul Science Centre gave a hugely entertaining presentation, reminding us all of the importance of surface tension where upside down glasses full of water are concerned!
SALT/SAAO staff also brought along a portable telescope for the students to use to view the Sun using a special mica filter (NEVER look directly at the Sun with the naked eye). Unfortunately the weather did not co-operate on the cloudy day and learners instead got to try their hands at some unconventional bird-watching! Peering through the telescope they were able to view up close a bird preening itself at the very top of a communications pole some 30 m high. Nicola and other SALT board members then had to think hard about all their telescope optics knowledge to explain to the learners why the bird they saw was viewed upside down through the telescope!
A special evening event was also held at the Old Mutual Science Centre at the Gateway centre in Umhlanga. Members of the general public were invited to a visually stunning and captivating talk describing the unsolved mysteries of the cosmos which was presented by Dr Mike Shara from the American Museum of Natural History in New York. Younger members of the audience (and young at heart adults!) also enjoyed scrambling into the indoor inflatable planetarium show. Here the public were treated to a riveting virtual tour of the night sky together with an introduction to indigenous starlore by Mdumiseni Nxumalo from the UniZul Science Centre.