Fostering Future Scientists: SAASC’s Student Development Workshop 2023


In the heart of Johannesburg, from December 7th to 10th, 2023, the South African Archaeology Student Council (SAASC) held a vibrant, four-day Student Development Workshop, where the air buzzed with ideas, insights, and inspirations. The workshop, jointly funded by Past and Genus, was packed with a diverse range of theoretical lectures and hands-on experiences, inspiring the next generation of young scientists.

Day 1: A Dynamic Beginning

The workshop, held at the Hominid House, Cradle of Humankind, kicked off with a spirited welcome, setting the tone for the days ahead. Lindiwe Mahlangu added an extra touch of excitement with her fascinating fossil displays, captivating the participants. The PSSA experts, Dr Kimi Chapelle, Dr Jonah Choiniere, and Enele Twala, then led an interactive session in palaeontology, stirring curiosity and bonding the students over their shared passion. The day concluded with a delightful dinosaur-themed quiz, adding a dash of fun to a day of learning!

MSc student Enele Twala sharing her research about the evolution of hearing and nocturnality in owls can inform fossil research. Photograph by Nithya Eswaran 
Lindiwe Mahlangu (left) and SAASC chairperson Nompumelelo Maringa (right) with the exciting lineup of fossils. Photograph by Nithya Eswaran

Day 2: Learning, Safety, and Creativity

The second day began with a hearty breakfast, fuelling the participants for the day’s varied activities. It was a blend of practical knowledge and creativity – from field safety and self-defense by Dr Mariette Harcombe, to a unique snake awareness program by Sake van Wyk. Dr Tammy Reynard’s ochre workshop was a highlight, leading to beautiful outdoor paintings by the students. The day wrapped up with a geology quiz and a bonfire, symbolizing the warmth of shared learning and experiences.

Dr Harcrombe (left) teaching students about safety and self defense in the field. Photograph by Nithya Eswaran
The materials used in the ochre workshop. Photograph by Nithya Eswaran

Day 3: A Deep Dive into Science and Communication

This day was marked by insightful discussions and intellectual stimulation. Dr Albino Jopela opened the day with his presentation on World Heritage and archaeology careers. The focus then shifted to the nuanced relationship between science and communication, expertly presented by Drs Mariette Van der Walt and Marina Joubert. Students were also given expert insights into funding opportunities and how to apply for research grants by Past’s CEO, Kimberleigh Tommy. The evening was then kicked off with student research presentations, an archaeology quiz, and ended with an award ceremony, celebrating the achievements and efforts of the participants.

Dr Albino Jopela talks about World Heritage and archaeology careers. Photograph by Nithya Eswaran

Day 4: A Memorable Conclusion

The final day was a blend of celebration and reflection. A morning ceremony set a reflective tone, followed by a tour of the Maropeng Museum, which was both educational and enjoyable. As the workshop concluded, participants shared their contentment, appreciating the safe and engaging learning environment. The anticipation for future workshops was palpable among the attendees.

As the SAASC looks towards the future, the success of the Student Development Workshop 2023 serves as a testament to their commitment to nurturing the next generation of scientists and communicators. The blend of academic rigour, practical knowledge and creative expression witnessed at this event is a model for their future educational endeavours in the fields of archaeology, palaeontology, and heritage management. The SAASC and its attendees eagerly await the 2024 workshop!