“We are all birds together’ sang the environmental educators gathered for a day of learning and sharing at the KZN Crane Foundation (KZNCF), last week. The morning began with a story – a tale of Mama and Baba Indwa, a nasty snare, a dramatic escape, absolute devotion and a happy ending.
Cranes pair up for life, both parents build the nest and feed and raise their chicks. This story honours their loyalty and courage, important values to impart to young people, and storytelling provides the ideal vehicle to do this.
With funding from N3Toll Concession, KZNCF has produced a set of learning materials called “Cranes in the Classroom” to assist local educators to include lessons about cranes, wetlands and grasslands in the curriculum. “The materials are aimed at Grades 4 – 6 to supplement the Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement (CAPS). They provide inspiring, practical lessons and activities for teachers to use in the classroom” said Jenny Stipcich, creator of the resources.
Each activity is designed to teach in numerous ways. “Most children learn through action and creativity” said Jenny, a follower of the Rudolph Steiner threefold learning method which includes willing (action), feeling and thinking. Participant, Nkanyiso Ndlela commented “The most interesting part of the workshop was the theory about how learners learn. I can see that limps, heart, head lessons will be effective in the classroom.”
An energetic spiral dance, accompanied by a song to attract a mate, had everyone laughing out loud! Sam Rose of the Impendle Eco-Schools node particularly enjoyed them, saying “I had such fun learning the songs, dances, playing the games. I was imagining how much I’ll enjoy sharing it with teachers and students.”
Then participants settled down to create crane puppets using simple materials.
With their fantasy puppets in hand,
everyone acted out an amusing drama called The Sneeze. This involved a snoozing farmer who doesn’t pay attention to the plight of the cranes on his land, unconcerned about fires, snares, poison and habitat destruction. They awake his conservation consciousness by ticking him with a feather.
Fun, action filled memory games at the end of the day ensured everyone remembered details from all segments of the workshop. Three species of cranes occur in South Africa: the Blue Crane, South Africa’s National Bird who features on the 5 cent coin; the Southern African Grey Crowned Crane who is loved by people around the world for its beauty and the African legend of how it obtained its regal crown; and the critically endangered Wattled Crane who once occurred throughout South Africa, but now numbers less than 250 in the wild and resides mainly within the sheltering wetlands and grasslands of KZN.
“It will be an honour to do the lesson about cranes” concluded Ntombenhle Mtambo of the Midlands Meander Association Education Project, colleague Eidin Griffin added “I am looking forward to integrating the wonderful crane values into our lessons.”
All this is very positive news for Midlands cranes. Conservation of cranes highlights the importance of protecting the Midlands fresh water resources. South Africans rely upon wetlands for clean water, flood control, recreation and tourism. Efforts to protect cranes bring the need for conservation and environmental education into sharp focus – the crane’s reliance on wetlands is a reflection of our own survival. The human need for clean water cuts across race, gender, age and religious affiliation and connects us to all living things.
Sophie Gough an intern at Entabeni Environmental Education Centre commented afterwards “A very engaging workshop which created a nice learning environment. Games were very useful and appropriate. I loved the puppets.” A follow up workshop will be held at the Entabeni Environmental Education Centre in Hlatikulu soon, where participants will meet real live cranes, practice their crane dances and focus on CAPS in more depth. Contact Ann Burke firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in working with these resources.