Friday, 5 September 2014

International Mineralogical Association (IMA '14) Day 5

I thank Dr. Megan Becker for her excellent daily (Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday) updates and photos from IMA '14. Now I invite those of you who attended the conference to submit your views and comments- what were the highlights for you?

Below is Megan's report on the last day of the conference:

And so the last day of the conference finally arrived….after a morning focused on the more technical aspects of the conference, I was involved in running the final afternoon session on Education and skills development. I think this was a very well timed session since it changed from the technical to the more philosophical and was a fun way to end the week. There were 5 talks in this final session, 3 of them devoted to newly developed programmes teaching mineralogy to undergraduate and graduate students: Dr Desh Chetty from Mintek presented on their graduate development programme, Prof Eric Pirard presented on the Emerald Geometallurgy Masters programme (an EU Erasmus Mundus programme run through Universities of Liege, Nancy, Freiburg and LuleĆ„), and Prof Dee Bradshaw presented on behalf of Ilkay Celik and Metin Can from Hacettepe University in Turkey (where she recently spent a sabbatical) on a new undergraduate process mineralogy course for mineral processing engineers.

Lunga Bam (NECSA), Wilma Clark (Mintek), Keshree Pillay (Mintek) and
Bertus Smith (University of Johannesburg) at the Mintek stand
The other 2 talks covered novel initiatives at teaching high school learners in South Africa. Rene Toerien from the University of Cape Town spoke on the interactive and accessible teaching material that she helped develop for high school teachers enabling them to educate learners on mining and mineral processing (bearing in mind that many of the teachers are from underprivileged schools and were faced with teaching curriculum that they have no previous experience on). The success of this initiative really spoke to the partnerships between school teachers, university and the local mining industry (sponsored by Anglo American).
Dr Jodie Miller (Stellenbosch University), Dr Phil Harris and Paul Linton at the Geospectral Imaging Stand
The other presentation was from Dr Tanya Reinhardt from the Science Centre affiliated to the University of Kwazulu Natal in South Africa. 2014 is the International year of Crystallography and as such, all local science centres were tasked with developing appropriate material that could be used as workshops for high school learners. On the basis of developing something accessible, easy to roll out, low cost and illustrative, she developed a workshop teaching learners about crystals and their internal structures (atoms and bonds). The heart of the workshop was building crystal models using jelly tots (sweets) and tooth picks! Tanya kindly prepared several of these “crystal model packs” which she distributed at the end of the session for delegates to build. The final built version of the “low cost” crystal model of galena (or halite) was simple and sufficiently engaging even for my own 5 yr old daughter (although eating the jelly tots was potentially problematic).

Dr Tanya Reinhardt setting up her “low cost”
mineralogy workshop

Overall, this final Friday afternoon session was well attended (this was my favourite session of the conference), and we had lots of constructive discussion even though many delegates were probably exhausted by the end of the week. This really highlights the fact that there are many dedicated teachers around who are passionate about finding ways to educate the next generation, be they scientists and or engineers. We are also reminded that mineralogy is not a simple subject to teach since it forces all learners to visualize from 2D into the world of 3D. Lastly, it also affirmed the need for process mineralogy courses within the current education of those involved in the global mining industry.

The next meeting of the International Mineralogical Association will be held in Melbourne in 2018.

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