UKZN’s Science Centre Co-ordinator, Dr Tanja Reinhardt (aka “Dr T”) scooped the prize for the Best Workshop at the recent Grahamstown National Science Festival.
The annual Festival aims to instil a love of science in school pupils.
Dr T’s workshop went under the intriguing title of “Wandering Continents”.
Using “play tectonics”, learners and teachers embarked on a journey through time to explore Wegener’s hypothesis of the wandering continents, and, as shift happened, on how geological evidence was used to support the theory of plate tectonics.
‘The participants physically moved play doh continents through time, from their current position to their positions about 220 million years ago when there was a supercontinent called Pangea,’ explained Reinhardt.
‘The participants investigated the various tools scientists used to develop the theory of plate tectonics. They placed markers on the different continents where the same type of fossils and rocks were found in their current position. Then they explored the patterns these markers made and compared the distribution of the markers made today to 220 million years ago.
‘They also looked at evidence from earthquakes and the age of the seafloor.’
The idea of the workshop had been developed by the College of Science and Engineering at the Texas Christian University, who generously donated the “Pangea cookie cutters” and continent mats.
Dr T also found time to woo a younger audience and visited local schools in Grahamstown to spread the magic of science.
Words: Dr Sally Frost