Normally at this time of year our team at Maropeng and the Sterkfontein Caves prepares to welcome families looking for a day of adventure during the school holidays. This year, of course, is very different.
A few months ago, the idea that many people on the planet (if not most) would end up spending the Easter weekend cloistered indoors would have seemed bizarre. However, not many of the millions of people who did just that had even heard of Covid-19, or the novel coronavirus, at that point.
This global pandemic has changed many aspects of our lives. For thousands of parents, it has meant finding ways to continue their children’s education themselves until schools reopen. Here are some of our favourite ideas from around the world:
Visit a museum in a different country every day
Start with a virtual tour of a very special exhibition at the Perot Museum of Nature and Science in Texas. Origins: Fossils from the Cradle of Humankind features Homo naledi and Australopithecus sediba. The exhibition came out of a partnership between the University of Witwatersrand and National Geographic.
You can also take a virtual reality tour of the Dinaledi Chamber, where the fossils were discovered, through Perot Museum’s Dinaledi Chamber VR Experience app, which is available for both Android and Apple devices.
Physical travel may be out of the question, but your let your eyes and mind explore world-renowned museums and art galleries online. Google Arts & Culture has digital collections from hundreds of museums around the world, and you can explore by theme. We recommend taking a look at collections on Natural History. We also highly recommend our exhibition guides for Maropeng and the Sterkfontein Caves, where you’ll get a glimpse at everything from the formation of our planet to the creation of modern society as we know it.
Lose yourself in a great documentary
If you’re going to have more TV time during the lockdown, you might as well make sure it’s spent on something brilliant. We recommend grabbing some popcorn and taking in Dawn of Humanity by popular US science TV series Nova.
It’s a compelling account of the discovery of Homo naledi in South Africa’s Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site, putting you in the shoes of the intrepid scientists who brought this story to the world. It also unpacks the equally fascinating debate on what the discovery means for our understanding of what makes humans human.
Take in a paleo lecture by a world-famous scientist
Wits University Professor Lee Berger, who led the Rising Star expedition that unearthed Homo naledi, is releasing a series of lectures on human origins and palaeoanthropology. The series will feature famous fossils, including the Taung Child, Homo naledi and Australopithecus sediba.
In a statement released by the university, Berger says:
“We are extremely fortunate at Wits to have such a valuable collection of strategic assets that we can use, to share our knowledge of what makes us human.
“My vision with these videos is that they can be viewed by the general public to give them a glimpse of the world of palaeoanthropology and human origins, as well as to be used as a teaching tool for teachers and lecturers in their classrooms during these difficult times.”
Get stuck into some puzzles
There’s nothing like a good puzzle or brainteaser to take the grind out of learning. Professor Tracy Kivell from the University of Kent in the United Kingdom shared a great set of games and puzzles that she created around the story of human origins. You can download them here.
Among them, you’ll find gems such as a word scramble themed around palaeontology and a maze through the Cradle of Humankind’s Dinaledi Chamber, where the world-famous Homo naledi fossils were found.
The American Museum of Natural History also has a page of games that focus on diverse topics, from genetics and birdwatching to images from the Hubble Space Telescope.
Take a trip off-planet
United States space agency NASA has a Do-It-Yourself section aimed at intrepid young would-be astronauts. This page is packed with activities for young ones who have their eyes on the skies. You can explore the solar system, take a closer look at spacecraft design, and make your own three-dimensional glasses and images – to list just a few of the activities on offer.
Head out into the bush
The beginning of winter can be a great time of year for a game drive as animals spend more time out in the open veld, soaking in the sun as the weather gets colder. Some game reserves and lodges are live-streaming game drives so you can enjoy the experience from the comfort of your own home.
Enjoy one right here in the Cradle with the Lion and Safari Park, which is live-streaming drives on their Facebook page.