“Usually I run to school in the mornings” said Khanyisile Shabalala, the first girl home in the learners’ race held on the Wildlands Conservation Trust (WCT) 3 Cranes Challenge Big Day Out. Karkloof Conservancy which has been involved in local schools for many years spreading environmental awareness, organises this day for the Grade 4-7 learners as part of the popular 3 Cranes Challenge.
With the wide plains of the Karkloof below and the forested hills behind, Bushwillow Park was a fabulous venue for a morning of learning and fun. The next day 230 competitors descend to participate in the three day race which is the major annual fundraising event for the Karkloof Conservancy. The Big Day Out is sponsored by N3 Toll Concession, Bonitas, Old Mutual and Wildlands.
Msisi Mthalane in Grade 5 at Yarrow Primary was the first runner to cross the finishing line, winning a bright red Coca Cola bicycle for his efforts. Last year, he also won the race and rides to school every day now. “I rode all the way to Howick with my friends” he told us, “it took four hours!” He is looking forward to taking part in the Karkloof Classic MTB race in April along with all the other bicycle winners and will pass his old bike along to a family member.
Principal of Yarrow, Mwake Dlamini, was so pleased when Gwanele Dlamini won the Grade 4 race “He has so far to walk to school every day, the bicycle will make a big difference to him.”
Everyone from the four Karkloof schools – Yarrow, Hawkstone, Gartmore and Triandra – tucked into apples and delicious crunchies made by Twané Clarke before splitting into groups for the rest of the day’s activities.
Facilitators from Karkloof Canopy Tours conducted teamwork activities with the children. In one group the leader was blindfolded and had to make their way around the group causing lots of laughter.
While in another everyone had to work together to move a ball balanced on a web of string and carefully place it on a marker without dropping it.
This occasionally caused voices to be raised as everyone shouted instructions! Musi Zuma reminded everyone that too much shouting simply caused chaos and that calm direct instructions got one to the target much more efficiently.
One group spent time with Siphiwe Mjadu of WCT learning about Ecosystems and the Food Web and finding living and non-living things in the grassland and scrub.
The final activity was a short lesson on Cranes by Laila Smith-Blose of the KZN Crane Foundation, followed by the wonderful African folk tale of ‘How the Crowned Crane got it’s Crown’ – related by Ann Burke and translated by Laila.
Lindiwe Mkhize (also of the KZN Crane Foundation) led a crane puppet making session with everyone enthusiastically colouring in their crane heads and gluing on the colourful beaks.
Zoleka Zondi in Grade four was delighted to have something to take home to show her family.
Thembi Maphumulo, educator from Triandra Primary said “It was a fun filled day and our learners enjoyed every moment.” Bikes were also awarded for academic achievement and to those who do the most in the school food gardens.
Green Heroes, wearing lime green t-shirts, are learners nominated by their schools as future leaders. They have to to write a motivation stating why they believe they deserve this accolade and should be chosen to participate in the WCT Green Heroes Indaba at the end of the year. “I help the teachers tidy the books and I take care of the school keys” said Marika Mofokoeng. Little Samkelisiwe Ngubane, who would like to be a doctor to all living things – animals, birds and humans – when she grows up, said “I help in the garden, keep the tools neat and I really love Nature.”
Agrineth Zuma, educator at Hawkstone Primary said “This is such a good idea as it is great for them to be in the company of others and learn something new.”
Exhausted everyone piled into the busses with their bikes to head home. Soon Karkloof Conservancy, in conjunction with SAPPI and the Midlands Meander Education Project, will be doing lessons about road safety in all the schools to ensure that everyone gets to school, and home again, safely. Look out for the bright red bikes and happy kids as you drive along the country roads.