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Pens for Pokanong

This article appeared in the February 17, 2012 edition of the Davis Enterprise.

Pens for Pokanong

Lexi Barton visits with students at Pokanong Primary School in South Africa in August 2012 as part of an international Eco-Schools program through Earthwatch.

By Lexi Barton & Kristin Sizemore

Special to the Enterprise

Lexi Barton has been volunteering at Explorit Science Center since June of 2011.  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 Lexi is Explorit’s volunteer specializing in animal care. 

 In August 2011 Lexi also spent 2 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 Lexi and the rest of her volunteer group to Pokanong Primary School. Judy facilitates the international Eco-Schools Program for eleven schools in the area, which teaches the students about biodiversity, sustainability, and how to address local and global environmental issues. 

Lexi 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, Lexi 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 over 6,000 students throughout the eleven schools in the Eco-Schools Program. 

Kristin Sizemore, Explorit’s Program and Site Manger, is happy to support Lexi’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, scissors, etc. 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. 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,” Lexi explained.

Material donations such as pens, pencils and other education supplies for Pens for Pokanong can be dropped off at Explorit Monday – Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.  If you have any questions about what to contribute or you wish to make a monetary donation, you may contact Lexi at or via  You may also contact Explorit at for more information.


Explorit’s coming events:

• February 20, 2012, Explorit’s exhibit “Forces of Nature” will be open for President’s Day, 1:00-5:00 p.m.  


Explorit Science Center is located at 3141 5th St. and is open to the public the first full weekend of every month from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m.  For more information call (530) 756-0191 or visit, or “like” us on Facebook at

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