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SUBG Scholar Tour June 8

Stellenbosch University Botanical Garden plants educational seeds for local scholars

The Stellenbosch University Botanical Garden (SUBG) has hosted nearly 600 scholars for educational tours since the start of 2024 and aim for similar numbers in the latter part of the year. Most recently, the SUBG team welcomed a group of Grade 7 students from various local primary schools through the National Research Foundation’s iThemba LABS. The tour aimed to supplement the students’ Grade 7 curriculum but also exposed them to local biodiversity, ecology, and conservation – bringing their textbooks to life!

The SUBG tours are mostly general but can be tailored to support the educational needs of students. Their most recent visit was designed to engage students through three main activities that encouraged critical thinking and hands-on interaction.

  • During the first activity students were introduced to the biodiversity of the Cape Flora Region and its ecological drivers. This was held in the Threatened Cape Lowland Habitat section, allowing students to explore the diverse Cape habitats and species.
  • The second activity focused on plant groups, specifically on the differences between monocots and dicots. Students were given the opportunity to examine various plants under a microscope and hand lenses to physically view these differences in the lab.
  • Then, the third activity highlighted the importance of fire and smoke for Cape plant species. This was demonstrated in the nursery, where students could see how smoke exposure stimulates seed germination and even got to sow seeds to take home.

Throughout the tour, the students explored the Threatened Cape Lowland Habitat beds, the office lab, and the nursery. They also enjoyed a brief tour through the arid and tropical glasshouses. In total, 50 students participated, representing various local primary schools. The tour was led by Annerie Senekal, Assistant Curator at SUBG, and the SUBG interns, who are busy with their 6-month to 2-year internships at SUBG.

“We hope this tour inspired students to appreciate their local flora and to become active citizens advocating for the conservation of natural spaces. We also aim for the tour to reinforce and bring to life the material discussed at school,” says Senekal.

The students were highly engaged and curious from the start of the tour to the end. They especially enjoyed the sowing seeds activity and were encouraged to ask questions by the multilingual SUBG team who can converse in English, Afrikaans and isiXhosa, an attribute which further enhances the tour experience by catering to diverse student needs. Other favourites among young students include the ‘Plants and People’ section, which captivates students by showcasing living forms of familiar kitchen spices like cinnamon and coffee. The arid houses are also popular, introducing another aspect of South African biodiversity.

While collaborations with educational outreach groups like iThemba LABS and Iimbovane help SUBG to reach scholars, schools or educational groups that are interested in visiting the garden can contact SUBG directly at to arrange a tour of their own.

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