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Dear Readers

In the previous edition of our Newsletter (November 2014), we promised to feature an article on the KBFT graduation.  In the piece below, you can read about how these 28 teachers have successfully completed three Short Courses each over a three-year period. They are giving back to their community with their improved knowledge and confidence.



A three-year journey by 28 FET mathematics and science teachers together with six RADMASTE staff came to a happy and victorious end on 1 November 2014. At a Certificate Ceremony held at Wits School of Education, 28 teachers received their third Certificate of Competence having successfully completed their third Wits Short Course.

All the teachers were sponsored by the Zionist Christian Church (ZCC) and Kganya Benefits Fund Trust (KBFT), and His Grace, the Right Reverend Bishop Dr Barnabas Lekganyane led a 5-person delegation from Limpopo in recognition of the significance of the occasion.

Prof Jean Baxen, Head of WSoE, welcomed the delegation and the teachers and contextualized the project and the occasion in relation to the three purposes of the School: teaching, research and community service. She stressed that WSoE took community service very seriously and paid tribute to the role of RADMASTE in this regard. She also reminded all present that learning does not stop, and suggested that those completing three hard years of study should think ahead towards Honours and higher degrees at Wits.

Jackie Scheiber (Acting Director and Head of the Maths Sector, RADMASTE) stressed that the Wits Short Courses were not Mickey Mouse courses. Yet this group of teachers had not only passed, but passed well. In the third Short Course, completed during 2014, the average final mark of Mathematics and Physical Sciences teachers was 74% and 71% respectively. It was not always so, and looking back over the records of the previous two years, is one way of revealing that they had not only learned new content but had learned how to use it and articulate it. Such thoughts emerged in the Votes of Thanks by a Mathematics and a Physical Sciences teacher.

Jackie Scheiber awards A Certificate of Competence to a successful Mathematics Teacher.


Reverend Emmanuel Motolla, speaking on behalf of ZCC, reminded participants that this project formed part of a continuing community development programme led by the ZCC. The benefits experienced by the 28 teachers were therefore certain to be diffused widely. This was indeed noted in a RADMASTE enquiry of participating teachers, which sought to find out the impact of the project as judged by themselves. Apart from questioning the impact on their own knowledge and skills, they were asked also about the impact on their colleagues and upon their learners.

Overwhelmingly it was revealed that colleagues had drawn upon their new knowledge and even the Short Course teaching materials, whilst learners had developed a love for the relevant subjects as well as improved achievement. Science teachers frequently made explicit reference to the impact of doing practical activities which had not been done previously.


Right Reverend Bishop Dr Barnabas Lekganyane congratulates one of eight KEFT teachers who all showed exceptional achievement during the lifetime of the project. Each of these teachers received an additional Special Award for their efforts.

In closing, Prof John Bradley (Head of the Science Sector, RADMASTE) emphasized that the 100% pass by this group of teachers was a unique achievement in RADMASTE’s five year experience with Short Courses. The teachers deserved therefore continued support so that they could realize their potential for the benefit of the community. Resources that could further help bring this about should not be withheld. He also appealed to ZCC and KBFT to commence a new 3-year project with a new cohort of maths and science teachers, now that a successful model has been demonstrated.

Mathematics and Physical Sciences Teachers receiving their Certificates of Competence

from Jackie Scheiber and Professor Bradley, respectively.


The KBFT Physical Sciences teachers with RADMASTE lecturers Maria Lycoudi and Andrew Chikochi.


The KBFT Mathematics Teachers with RADMASTE lecturer Micky Lavery.






RADMASTE was asked by the Johannesburg Parks Board to host an exhibition on 8 August 2014 at Orange Farm, Johannesburg, as part of a National Science Week event. Since 2014 is the International Year of Crystallography, it was immediately decided to bring crystals and crystallography to the learners in an interactive, exciting way.

Assisted by its team of three Volunteers from the SAASTA/NRF National Youth Service Programme (Katlego Malesa, Jabulile Malindi and Anastesia Mayimela), RADMASTE set up three work stations at which groups of learners could engage with the crystallography activities using equipment from the Facilitator's Crystallography Kit (FCK).

Jabulile had worked extensively on the design of the crystal-growing activity, and it seemed fitting that she should display the crystal-growing demonstrations. Armed with a petri dish of seed crystals, Jabulile had no problem coaxing learners into selecting what they thought was the best seed crystal to use for growing the perfect copper sulfate pentahydrate crystal. Learners could also observe an actual crystal that had already been grown using the microscale set-up.


Jabulile also displayed beautiful borax crystal pipe-cleaner shapes and handed out recipes for these to learners so that they can make decorations for their Christmas trees.

Choosing the best seed crystal

With her jars of water glass at the eye-level of learners, Jabulile wowed the audience with her Magical Rock Gardens. Learners had the opportunity to add chemical substances to the water glass, and watched the “colourful chemical towers” rising magically before their eyes in the underwater gardens.

A copper sulfate pentahydrate crystal grown using microscale techniques

A Magical Rock Garden




Katlego demonstrated the crystal observation and modelling activities. There was an array of crystalline and amorphous substances on display and learners took turns at observing these using the hand-held microscopes. It was evident that, for some, this was the first time they had encountered a microscope and they were all eager to see what would be revealed at the end of such a contraption. Katlego had also built models of crystals using the beads in the learner kit to show learners that crystals consist of regular arrangements of particles, whilst amorphous solids do not.





Anastesia prepared and demonstrated the laser diffraction activities to excited learners. She used a big cardboard box as her “dark room” and provided a selection of fibres and fabrics (including hair) onto which learners could shine the light from a red or green laser pointer. Peering into the dark room, learners could observe the laser diffraction patterns at the back of the box.


Despite the gusty wind and cold temperatures, the show went on and the learners were enthralled with all they could see and do with the crystallography resources. Being able to touch and use the equipment made everything so much more real for them. This definitely created an awareness of Crystallography like no other at National Science Week!




The versatility of the Facilitator’s Crystallography Kit was further exploited at the Sci-Bono Centre in Johannesburg, where a Wits University crystallographer – Dr Andreas Lemmerer – gave a lecture on X-ray diffraction to the public as part of the Talk-2-a Scientist series. The RADMASTE activities were set up as a display that showed the audience the kinds of things that learners can accomplish with the microscale tools. Subsequently, Sci-Bono has obtained 4 FCKs from the Department of Science and Technology (DST) and has discussed with RADMASTE how best to use them in their own Science Centre as well as to assist other Science Centres. According to Michael Ellis, Science Centre Manager, they are still making extensive use of RADMASTE’s kits developed for the Global Water Experiment in the International Year of Chemistry 2011.





Professor John Bradley, on behalf of RADMASTE, participated together with delegates from more than 20 countries in the IYCr2014 Pan African Summit which took place at the University of the Free State (UFS), Bloemfontein, South Africa on 15 – 17 October 2014. The theme of the meeting was Crystallography as Vehicle to Promote Science in Africa and Beyond.

Specific challenges were identified, such as how to “demystify science and create awareness” and how to “bring science into every home”. Professor Jansen (Vice Chancellor, UFS) challenged delegates to consider how to improve the human condition and prepare the next generation of scientists. The International Union of Crystallography is also establishing a legacy fund to continue what has been started in 2014.

Other groups put forward their aims and described their work: the mission of the International Council for Science (ICSU) is “strengthening science for society”; a range of educational activities has been initiated globally as part of IYCr2014 involving kits being distributed to UNESCO schools. UNESCO has also been involved with crystal-growing competitions in several African countries. The South African Agency for Science and Technology Advancement (SAASTA) has embarked on varied projects and programmes aimed at increasing awareness of science amongst the public, including at large and small Science Centres around the country. Their objective is to have 80% of their outreach in rural and disadvantaged communities and to “put the world of science in the hands of society”.

Professor Bradley gave a presentation entitled “Crystallography for All” where he highlighted that promoting Science in Africa should include, amongst other things, attracting more learners to science and developing scientific literacy. If we focus on these two aspects, then crystallography can indeed be a vehicle for promoting science.


Regrettably “crystallography” is absent from most school science curricula. Yet in a covert way it is there. Bradley identified the relevant topics as being states of matter and changes of state, crystallisation, solubility, the Particle Model of Matter and ionic crystal structure, and diffraction of light. All of these are pieces of a jigsaw puzzle that could represent crystallography, but few teachers and learners see the completed puzzle with that picture of crystallography we might share. The IYCr2014 affords an opportunity to address this classroom challenge. Awareness of the field can be created amongst teachers and learners, and teachers may even be persuaded that it is so interesting that at some stage they should take the bits of the puzzle together so as to show learners the picture – even if there is no exam question to do.

The kits that RADMASTE has developed for IYCr2014 and the experiences we have had so far using these with learners, show that the impact of the simple activities and demonstrations is strong. Crystals are a tangible part of everyone’s life: from salt and sugar to quartz (sand) and even to diamonds. Our kits can get learners’ curiosity sparked with the question of which substances are actually crystals and which are not, and this type of enquiry leads eventually to X-ray crystallography!

If we would like to give life to the proposition that crystallography can be a vehicle to promote Science in Africa, then all stakeholders need to get together very soon to make considered plans for school science. These plans would be a valuable legacy of the IYCr, and if implemented (from 2015 onwards!) could make a welcome contribution to promoting Science in Africa.

The Summit closed with the drafting of a proposal to form an African Crystallographic Association (AfCA). The organisers of the Summit intend releasing a Declaration soon that should provide guidance to stakeholders to further actions in Africa that will, inter alia, preserve the legacy of IYCr and ensure that science in educational programmes is promoted. RADMASTE will continue to promote the Facilitator’s Crystallography Kit, and the microscience kits in general, in support of these aims. Not only do the kits find place in the school curriculum, but they are also suitable as a basis for Science Club activities at schools and for outreach activities for parents.

For more information on the RADMASTE Crystallography Kits, please visit www.microsci.org.za. The activities are also explained in detail on our Crystallography Page, as well as in the September 2014 edition of Quest Magazine, a science publication for South Africa (Volume 10 (3) pp 21 – 26).






RADMASTE Microscience, 2015. All rights reserved.