How 2 000 KZN learners will try to break a science Guinness Record this Friday

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Over 2 000 learners from 22 Durban high schools will try to add another South African accolade to the Guinness World Records when by holding the world’s largest practical science lesson.

Jolene Van Heerden, from Pinetown mechanical engineering company, MAHLE Behr South Africa, thought of embarking on a world record attempt in 2014 as a way to bring learners from different backgrounds in one room to share and experience the fun of science. and create more enthusiasm in the subject.

Van Heerden teamed up with the Centre for The Advancement of Science and Mathematics Education (CASME) in February last year to begin brainstorming a way forward.

MAHE Behr and CASME have worked together on a number of projects over the last three years, particularly maths and science at schools in rural and under-resourced areas in KwaZulu-Natal.

The attempt was originally set to take place in October last year with 1 600 learners but had to be postponed due to the countrywide student protests. It will instead take place this Friday, 5th February.

Even if the initial attempt had taken place then, it would’ve been in vain because a school in India was right on the trail and successfully set the record weeks later, by having 2 000 learners take part in their lesson.

Two experiments, 176 volunteers, teachers and stewards

A total of 2100 learners will be taking part in the attempt, which will involve the completion of two different experiments.

The event will be hosted at the Durban Exhibition Centre, with 76 teachers including lecturers from the University of KwaZulu Natal, 50 stewards and 50 volunteers who will help Mokhulu Matshika and Nokuthula Xulu facilitate the lesson on the day.

A number of sponsors, among them the eThekwini Municipality, are on board to back the attempt.

“In an attempt to save costs, the two experiments have been constructed using by-product materials donated by MAHLE Behr’s production processes,” Van Heerden tells

“Each participating school will receive a set of equipment after the attempt. To meet the very stringent Guinness World Record criteria and standards the lesson must take place in a given time scale, together in a pre-determined place.”

“The learners who will be helping us break this World Record are at a critical stage in their schooling and will soon be making subject choices that will in many ways determine their future opportunities,” adds Henre Benson from CASME.

What it will take to get the thumbs up from Guinness

Before it gets a stamp of approval from Guinness, organisers will have to have a number of stringent pre-requisites in order to tick all the right boxes.

The pack will have to include a cover letter explaining the context of the record attempt.

There will have to be two independent specialist witness statements confirming that the rules have been adhered to and must explicitly state the exact and final figure of the total participants taking into account any participants whom the stewards deducted from the total.

Statements must describe the counting process and overall attempt in details. Steward statements must verify the exact number of people successfully completing the activity that is the subject of the record attempt.

Video evidence of the entire record attempt, from start to finish has to be produced to enable MAHLE Behr and CASME to confirm the measurement achieved, that the guidelines have been adhered to and verify the details provided by the independent witnesses.

Photographic evidence of the attempt taking place, capturing the details provided by the independent witnesses is also a condition. This evidence must include an aerial photo of the crowd or a photo showing the entire group.

“MAHLE Behr and CASME feel that these strict rules are imperative because it gives credibility and weight to what is a ground-breaking effort.,” Van Heerden says.

The actual record attempt will take place for one hour.

You can follow all updates on the attempt on the World Science Record SA’s Twitter and Facebook accounts.

[Image – World Science Record SA Facebook]