Saluting science

Saluting science

The BASF Kids Lab is taking the magic of chemistry out to the young people of South Africa, and recently treated underprivileged learners to a fun-filled week of interactive scientific discovery.

Striving to stimulate young people’s interest in the natural sciences, particularly chemistry, leading chemical company BASF gave Pretoria school children the opportunity to experience the magic of science – a first for many. The BASF Kids Lab was opened at the University of Pretoria on August 1, running a five-day programme in conjunction with National Science Week, a Department of Science and Technology initiative.

Kids Lab provides an interactive chemistry programme aimed at children between the ages of eight and 14. The initiative hopes to spark a keen interest in science among less fortunate school children, enabling them to gain a better understanding of chemistry and encouraging these potential-filled individuals to explore the fascinating world around them.

With “Water loves chemistry” as the theme, didactic and interactive storytelling was used to put a strong emphasis on the importance of teaching good scientific practice, giving the children an opportunity to relate the content to their own experiences. BASF – in conjunction with the University of Pretoria’s Sci-Enza (the oldest interactive Science Centre in South Africa) and the Walter Sisulu Environmental Centre in Mamelodi – used the week to conduct a series of water experiments designed to make learning fun.

Learners were able to conduct their own water purification and storage experiments (under supervision), and execute their own research. The lab encourages students to recognise that water is a critical resource while grasping the idea that chemistry has the ability to provide solutions to problems such as waste and pollution – thereby highlighting a key role of chemistry: providing safe and clean water.

“We are delighted to have had the opportunity to help children discover a love for chemistry,” says BASF’s head of corporate communications, Petra Bezuidenhout. “Science can offer rewarding careers for those with curiosity and a desire to understand the world around them.”

Foundation skills in areas such as maths, science and language are essential components of a good education system; quality science and technology education is crucial for South Africa’s future innovation.

Kids Lab was developed by BASF in Ludwigshafen, Germany, and has been tested by children from Germany, China and now South Africa. This year, around 1 400 children have visited the Kids Lab in different locations around the country. BASF has also sponsored similar science programmes aimed at getting young people to recognise the critical need for science education in South Africa.

A greater number of science graduates results in a more productive and skilled workforce, which ultimately contributes to a stronger and more globally competitive nation. It’s no secret that science education in South Africa is experiencing problems that could lead to a crisis. BASF and Kids Lab are doing a fantastic job of promoting science development. There need to be more attempts such as these to help solve the science obstacles in education, eliminating or at least improving the skills shortage in the long run. 

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