The eagerly anticipated, refurbished sciences facilities at Roedean School (SA) in Johannesburg, Gauteng, were formally opened earlier this year. Extensive research was done on the requirements for successful school science laboratories around the world and, as a result, the school now has five state-of-the-art, fully equipped science laboratories.
The strategic aim behind the new facilities is to encourage girls to venture confidently into the male-dominated world of the sciences. In keeping with this theme, at the opening, Emmie Kruger, chair of the Roedean board, quoted Stephanie Kwolek, the female inventor of Kevlar (the material used in the manufacture of bulletproof vests): ‘All sorts of things happen when you are open to new ideas and playing around with things.’ Siyabulela Xuza, a South African energy engineering Harvard University graduate, was the guest speaker at the opening and was warmly welcomed by Laura Robinson, one of Roedean’s leading sciences students.
Xusa’s address was both entertaining and inspirational. He traced his journey in the field of science and discussed his curiosity about space, in general, and Jupiter, in particular — a curiosity that shaped his success. He emphasised that the sciences are not defined by gender or race, and that anyone who is curious about the world around them, is determined to investigate it, and believes that they can succeed has every chance of doing so in this field.
The new facilities have become inspirational places of learning where practical work is safe and manageable, and the integration of technology has been a priority. There is a teachers’ collaborative workspace in which members of both the Physical and Life Sciences departments can share ideas and resources, problem-solve together and give mutual assistance. There is an organised and safe chemical storage facility, equipment storeroom and a prep room, managed by a skilled laboratory technician.
Roedean is committed to sharing the new facilities with the wider community, and practical workshops have already taken place on Saturday mornings for pupils from the Roedean Academy, which offers enrichment to pupils from Barnato Park High School.