As part of a new initiative of the ever-developing Oakhill College, grades eight to twelve, young and old went to separate destinations on the 17th May for a day of first hand learning experiences. We, the Grade Ten students headed down to Pledge Park, which is officially known as Pledge Nature Reserve. Although this pristine area is within walking distance from Oakhill School, many of us were unaware of the beauty which such an area holds.
Pledge Nature Reserve provided the perfect platform for the Biology students, due to the overwhelming abundance and variety of plants, insects and animals. Mrs Le Fleur, Mrs Brown, Mr Claassen and a new member of the Oakhill staff, Mrs Bouwer, were our accompanying teachers. They lead the way through the gates and introduced us to Pledge Nature Reserve manager, Mervin. We were then split into three groups, two of which would stay behind to do various chemical tests on the natural environment, whilst the other group went on a guided tour through the little stretch of natural forest which made up the Reserve. Here we were told about the history of the area, and Oakhill´s previous involvements in restoring its natural beauty after almost all of Knysna´s indigenous trees were lost to the forestry industry. We were also taught about biodiversity and the mutual relationship between the organisms making up this biome.
After a quick refuel, the groups alternated activities, group one went to test the soil and water whilst groups two and three went on the guided tour with Mervin. Mrs Bouwer actioned our first activity, which was to test the pH level of the surrounding soil using bicarbonate soda and vinegar. We collected samples from both high and low lying areas, and the difference in pH levels was distinctly different. Then Mrs Le Fleur instructed us to collect several water samples in order to look at the organisms present and the level of health content of the water in the Nature Reserve. We first measured the temperature, then got the pH level and thereby interpreted the health content of the water using the Universal Indicator. The results were shocking; the water flowing through the Pledge Nature Reserve varied between polluted and highly polluted. Mervin described this as the result of a burst sewerage pipe upstream of the area. Although the water was not healthy for human consumption, several organisms flourish in such conditions.
All in all, the day proved to be a great success as we learnt numerous interesting facts, not only about the area and its organisms, but also the vulnerability of such pristine nature and the importance of preserving it.
The Grade Ten students would like to thank the Staff for the effort that went into planning such an interesting excursion.