Since Iimbovane's launch in 2006 ('Iimbovane' means 'ants' in isiXhosa), the project's primary aims are providing educational support to learners and educators, increasing awareness of science as an interesting and attractive career path, and changing the attitudes of youth regarding biodiversity and the impacts of human activities on it.
To do this, Iimbovane uses ants as a model species for introducing learners and educators to concepts of biodiversity, ecology and the scientific method. Under the guidance of the Iimbovane team, and using simple but scientifically sound methods, participating learners and educators collect ants in their school grounds, gaining hands-on experience of biodiversity and the scientific method while collecting their own data, which they later use in the classroom.
In the practical part of the project, learners spend time in their natural environment and gain valuable practical science skills such as doing measurements, making observations, following a scientific protocol and handling field equipment. Back in the classroom, learners use microscopes to explore ant morphology while learning skills such as the use of a microscope and scientific keys to identify their ants, as well as working in groups to analyse their data using tables, graphs and statistics.
Iimbovane is currently implemented in 17 secondary schools around the Western Cape and has trained approximately 12 837 learners between 2006 and 2020.
To increase its educational footprint, the project also equips Life Science classrooms of partner schools with Information and Communications Technology (ICT) equipment such as laptops, digital projectors and microscopes. Iimbovane further support its educators through training events and the development of learning materials that are in line with the content and requirements of the National Curriculum.
Besides its work at schools, the project also hosts holiday workshops where learners explore biodiversity in a variety of habitats through mini-research projects. Learners attending these workshops receive training in basic computer literacy to analyse and present data collected during these projects. These workshops take place at campsites, in nature reserves and national parks, or at the Stellenbosch University.
In addition, Iimbovane hosts one-day programmes that are environmentally themed lessons linked to the National Curriculum. These interactive programmes take place at schools, in nature reserves and national parks, or on Stellenbosch University campus.
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