The school syllabus includes the study of the Vredefort Dome among the eight World Heritage Sites in South Africa. For geography, physics, nature studies, literature and cultural awareness, the Vredefort Dome is almost unsurpassed as a teaching resource. University departments of geology, history and heritage also study the Dome. Contact us to discuss your educational interests and needs.
Throughout the year we host educational groups from primary and secondary schools up to postgraduate level. Presentations, demonstrations, videos and tours are not taken off the shelf but specially developed for each group. The Dome story is vast and complex, so we concentrate on the things that learners and students need to know and explore.
We make sure that our young visitors enjoy themselves with science games, challenges and treasure hunts. Also, the educational tours usually involve some combination of hiking or rafting to get to know the Dome from the ground and the river. Go here for a typical day outline including informative talks and adventures. We also take photos and videos on the day and can do an informative video production featuring your group.
Professor Graeme Addison, popular science writer and researcher, runs the tours with a team of trained guides from the area. School tours can be up to 100 learners at a time. Among the themes we can tackle:
GEOGRAPHY & RIVER PROCESSES: One of the highlights of any visit to the Dome is a Vaal River adventure – walking along the banks to see evidence of the explosion such as melt-rocks (pseudotachylites); canoeing among the islands (formed by the river on the underlying cracks in the Dome granite structure); or rafting the rapids to see and experience the way the river is downcutting (the Vaal is a superimposed river that has come down onto the Dome). Teachers, lecturers and learners can all enjoy a day on the river and leave with a much better understanding of geomorphology (landscape evolution). Geography classes will benefit from our detailed explanations and demonstrations of fluvial processes: erosion and deposition over long spans of time.
EVOLUTION & LIFE SCIENCES: The catastrophic impact blast did not cause an mass extinction of life. In our biology and evolution walks, talks and experiments with school groups we deal with the emergence of life on Earth and the extinction of the dinosaurs by an impact 65 million years ago. At the time of the Vredefort explosion, two billion years ago, there were only bacteria on Earth. However, these cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) were the predecessors of more complex life forms, including dinosaurs and the mammals (among the latter, ourselves). Complex multicellular life began to appear from about 600 million years ago. Human evolution can only be traced back to just over 3 million years. This is a fascinating tale and the elements of it are all around us in the Dome. We show examples of stromatolites (fossilised bacterial deposits) and examine ancient plant forms that still flourish beside the river.
GEOLOGY & THE PLANETS: Everyone is fascinated by asteroids, mainly because we all fear the next big impact. It’s unlikely to happen in our lifetimes but all the same the story of the asteroids and how they have helped to form (and damage) planets is a vivid background to our presentations. We show videos and discuss how the solar system was born. The Dome was declared by Unesco in 2005, which named it as of the oldest and largest known asteroid impact crater on Earth. The Dome, or central uplift, is about 50-70km across and marks the centre of a far larger crater which stretches from Johannesburg via Klerksdorp to Welkom – the “arc of gold”, up to 300km across.
GOLD AND HERITAGE: South Africa has the Dome to thank for its gold wealth. The asteroid impact some 2.203 billion years ago drove the gold-bearing rock strata of the Dome deep underground, preserving it for discovery by humankind.
- The Dome lies at the very heart of South Africa and the story that unfolds around it has universal meaning. Here, a massive object from outer space slammed possibly brought the building blocks of life to our planet.
- The Vaal River is the only major river on Earth crossing a meteorite crater from side to side. The Vaal itself is one of the oldest of all rivers, and in this region it contains many islands that shelter rich wildlife.
- Here too, human beings have lived since the dawn of the species. Archaeological sites abound, with evidence of iron and copper smelting and trade with East Africa. Many migrating peoples have crossed the Dome and the area is littered with battlefields and historical sites from the time of Mzilikazi and the Voortrekkers, through the gold rush and Anglo Boer War, and down to the apartheid era.
- The Parys Museum, run by a team of enthusiastic volunteers who are also experts in their fields, has a fascinating collection of old and new artefacts. Staff welcome educational groups and will tell the story of how the district has evolved through war and peace, settlement and displacement, irrigation systems and town meetings. Walking tours in the town and township are also done. The museum is expanding its coverage of Bushmen and peoples predating the arrival of invaders.
Our information centre, with its conference room and surrounding lawns, is at Otters’ Haunt on the North West Province side of the Vaal River, 2km from Parys. This is an ideal location for educational tours because we can do the river, visit the Museum in town, and hike up into the mountains for a view of the Dome.