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Jo'Burg Days: Yes, Yes, To Insects

Barbara Durlacher tells of a exhibition designed to help children learn about the human race’s reliance on the diverse range of plants, insects and animals with which we share this earth.

To read more of Barbara's splendid stories and articles please click on http://www.openwriting.com/archives/joburg_days/

Another much anticipated event in Gauteng was the annual ‘gogga’ exhibition at the University of the Witwatersrand [Wits]. This year the theme was “Defenders” with a deliciously frightening logo which caused many an apprehensive squeal from the children. With the emphasis on live insects and reptiles, the inter-active show featuring over 40 stalls run by university staff and students was supported by official and semi-official organisations such as the Melville Koppies group, the Origins Museum, Free Me Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre, Wits Bird Club, and the Walter Sisulu Botanical Garden. Wits staff and students presented fascinating bugs, plants and animals specially selected to demonstrate how nature has developed subtle and sophisticated defensive tactics to protect itself from its predators.

“Yebo Gogga Yebo” [which translates as “Yes, Yes to Insects”] was first developed by Wits educators and scientists when it was realised that today’s urban children are widely separated from familiarity and knowledge of the natural world although many of them have an insatiable curiosity about it. As Renée Reddy, the Museum’s Director said ... we thought we would bring the kids in contact with nature and hopefully make them love and take care of it," it was decided that the best method was to make instruction fun and involve them in what is going on.

Allied to the gogga exhibition is “Yebo Amablomma [flowers/trees]. Here the kids can learn about the human race’s reliance on the diverse range of plants, insects and animals with which we share this earth. They also learn who are the aggressors in nature and who are the defenders fighting for survival. From earthworms to ‘Parktown Prawns’ to social insects and malaria mosquitoes every living thing has a place in nature. The main aim of the exhibition is to engage and educate the public but particularly school learners about arthropods, animals and plants and their context within biology.

One-on-one encounters with scorpions, beetles, spiders and snakes more than came up to the children’s expectations of encountering “real” frighteners, while introductions were made easier by taking part in bug races or sharing a bug braai – fancy a slice of Mopani-worm-and-ant pizza anyone?

In teaching children to understand and protect the environment, “Yebo Gogga Yebo” performs an important socialising and educational function and the increasing numbers of excited children leaving the exhibition halls is testimony to the success of the dedicated presenters who take this task so seriously, yet make it fun for young and old who throng to the show.


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