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1 June 2016
5 Things You Didn’t Know About UWC’s Science Learning Centre for Africa

UWC’s Science Learning Centre for Africa Promotes Science and Maths Across The Country

South Africa is faced with many challenges, and one of our main hopes of finding a solution is through science. Unfortunately, the country’s high school results in science and mathematics subjects haven’t been very strong. But the University of the Western Cape’s Science Learning Centre for Africa (UWC-SLCA) aims to do something about that.

“Developing a culture of science teaching and learning will be a good start to improving NSC and other assessments. We have to start with the basics: supporting teachers to have the confidence to teach science with an advanced level of understanding, knowledge and teaching skills,” explains Professor Shaheed Hartley, Director of UWC-SLCA. “And we have to be creative in providing learners with opportunities that will draw their interest and willingness to learn.”

How creative? Well, there are numerous interesting ways in which the SLCA helps make a more vibrant and exciting science culture at schools.

Science Labs & Clubs: Many South African schools just aren’t equipped to help learners develop skills in - and a love for - science. That’s why UWC-SLCA, in conjunction with Garden Cities Archway Foundation, has built dozens of state-of-the-art science labs (48 of them intended for completion by the end of 2016). The science centres - equipped with smartboards, microscopes and more - are constructed to give support and training to practicing science educators, to get learners involved in science activities, and to allow learners and teachers to work and experiment in a safe environment...providing the opportunity for greatness for over 300 teachers and 80 000 learners.

Teaching the Teachers: Teaching learners is one way of raising the levels of science literacy in South Africa - but teaching teachers can be even more useful. SLCA has conducted upgrading accredited short courses for FET and GET science and mathematics educators in the Northern Cape and Eastern Cape, and supported educators and learners in the Cape Winelands, West Coast, South, Central and Eden Valley education districts. It is also conducting a science road show to the surrounding primary and secondary schools, and provides ongoing CAPS curriculum training with local schools regularly visiting UWC-SLCA laboratories to conduct practical and experimental work. The SLCA is also involved in UWC’s BEd Honours and MEd in Science Education programmes for aspiring teachers. Not sure what’s going on in a section of the science content? The SLCA can help with that.

Paper Jets, Robots and Science Competitions: Any school child who's ever taken a break from class to toss a paper jet knows that it needs impressive amounts of scientific, mathematical, engineering and aviation knowledge: achieving good flight requires a jet of the perfect size and shape, not to mention a well-calculated throw that takes into account wind speed and direction, as well as obstacles. That’s why the SLCA hosts an annual Paper Jet Competition, giving teams of learners the chance to compete in designing the best plane, and employing their most cunningly-calculated throws to see whose planes fly furthest and longest. The SLCA also supports robotics, and has hosted the Western Province First Lego League Robotics. The Centre hosts an annual science competition for science clubs in the Western Cape where young aspiring scientists can show off their skills, knowledge and expertise whilst competing with their peers for the coveted prize of who’s the best in science.

Promoting Women In Maths: Maths matters. With the right idea, some mathematical skill, and proper support, anybody can change the world. That’s why it’s such a shame that young women are often not exposed to maths-related careers. That’s a problem for them (maths-related careers can be very rewarding) and for everybody else (talent isn’t confined to one half of the population, and who knows what world-changing solutions we’re missing out on every time a girl who gives up on maths misses her chance?). Which is why the SLCA hosts its annual Women in Maths Mini-Convention, giving high-school learners the chance to hear how maths helps make women better professors, pilots, accountants, and more.

National Science Week: Science is important 52 weeks a year - but one week of each year, National Science Week, there’s a special countrywide celebration of science where scientists, educators and others conduct science-based activities and reach out to students, learners and others interested in science. And every year, the Department of Science and Technology partners with the SLCA to put on the best show possible, and make sure everybody knows: learning science is a tool that helps you make a difference... and it’s lots of fun to boot.

Want to know more? Visit the Science Learning Centre For Africa Facebook page or email find out how science, maths and education can make the world a better and more interesting place.