The DST-NRF Centre of Excellence in Tree Health Biotechnology (CTHB) Outreach team participated in the 2018 National Science Week (NSW) - an initiative driven by the Department of Science and Technology and in support of the Mpumalanga Department of Education and takes place in all nine provinces of South Africa - over a one-week period (30 July to 3 August 2018). The Outreach team, overflowing with science enthusiasm and energy and geared-up with a variety of basic science experiments, travelled to the Mondi Science, Career Guidance and FET Skills Centre in Piet Retief to participate in one of the biggest NSW celebrations held at the Centre. NSW 2018 began with an Opening Ceremony to welcome all participants and were also entertained with musical items by the South Africa Police Service (SAPS) National Band and Ndlela Secondary choir. This event was attended by approximately 10,000 learners and educators from surrounding schools within the Gert Sibande District of the Mpumalanga Province.

The team conducted a wide range of experiments showcasing knowledge in fields such as physics, biology and mathematics. Learners and educators often thought that the experiments were “magic” and were blown away by the science principles behind the experiments that are done using readily available household products. Some of the highlights were a “tangled couple” experiment, where the learners had to untangle themselves from each other, “Dry paper and water”, in which the paper stays dry even after placing it in a container of water and how a magnet attracts burnt matches in the matches-magnet magic experiment.

The team returned to FABI at the University of Pretoria fulfilled and knowing that they could contribute towards a society that is knowledgeable about science, critically engaged and scientifically literate. The CTHB Outreach team this year included postgraduate students Juanita Avontuur, Angel Maduke, Modjadji Makwela and Fezile Mthunzi.