Lexi Barton has been volunteering at Explorit Science Center since June. In that time, she has facilitated hands-on science activities as a science teaching assistant for Explorit’s Exhibit public hours, discovery lessons, nature safaris and summer camp programs. Currently, Barton is Explorit’s volunteer specializing in animal care.
In August, Barton also spent two weeks as a volunteer for Earthwatch at a wildlife research center in South Africa.
Oldrich Van Schalkwyk, the research center’s lead scientist, and his wife Judy took Barton and the rest of her volunteer group to Pokanong Primary School. Judy facilitates the international Eco-Schools Program for 11 schools in the area, which teaches the students about biodiversity, sustainability and how to address local and global environmental issues.
Barton and her Earthwatch group played an educational game with the students, and spent time with the preschoolers. She was “struck by the fact that a handful of pens were considered such a gift for the teachers. Everyone here has pens, pencils and other school supplies lying around in drawers, and it would be such an amazing thing to be able to send these back to Africa.”
With that idea, Barton formed Pens for Pokanong and has collected several hundred pencils, pens and other school supplies, including erasers and art supplies. Soon, she plans to start sending those school supplies to Africa for distribution to more than 6,000 students throughout the 11 schools in the Eco-Schools Program.
Kristin Sizemore, Explorit’s program and site manager, is happy to support Barton’s efforts by providing her with a location for people to drop off their donations to Pens for Pokanong. Environmental education and awareness is one of Explorit’s core values, and facilitating that learning abroad for children is something that we stand by.
The best school supplies to contribute include pencils, pens, markers, colored pencils, lead refills, erasers, glue sticks and scissors. The best educational materials to contribute are books and DVDs about wildlife or environmental education.
The basis of Pens for Pokanong is that these are things that we have just sitting around, so as long as they work, they’ll be a great benefit to the schools. Brand-new supplies aren’t necessary, but certainly appreciated. Monetary donations to assist with shipping costs are also welcome.
“The resources that they have are very limited; getting a box of things like pencils that we consider superfluous is exciting for them,” Barton said. “I hope, in the future, to be sending over more books to build their libraries — so far, shipping costs are limiting what sorts of things I can send, but hopefully as Pens for Pokanong grows, so will the variety and helpfulness of what I’m able to send over.”
— Explorit’s exhibit “Forces of Nature” will be open from 1 to 5 p.m. Monday, the Presidents Day holiday. For more information, call (530) 756-0191.
Lexi Barton visits with students at Pokanong Primary School in South Africa in August as part of an international Eco-Schools program through Earthwatch. Courtesy photo