Beacon Hill and the Beacon Hill Wildflower Exhibition is a great local resource to use for a Natural and Cultural Heritage lesson. Julia Colvin (MMAEP) recently organised a trip for learners from Silindile, Yarrow, Triandra and Sifisesihle schools (all registered with the WESSA Eco-School programme) and compiled this report. The excursion was a joint effort between the Howick uMngeni Museum (HuM) and the Midlands Meander Association Education Project (MMAEP), assisted by a group of dedicated volunteers – from the Friends of Howick Museum and Friends of Beacon Hill and Charlene Russell.
The children were all given multi-coloured hats and bright bandanas – always guaranteed to infuse that little bit of extra, much needed, energy – as the climb to the top of Beacon Hill is quite steep, but well worth the effort.At the top one is treated to a panoramic view of Howick. On reaching the summit there were many “Oohs! And Aahs!” as they saw the expanse of Midmar and a different perspective from one the children are used to. Looking at Howick with new eyes.
They quickly identified landmarks on the map – which had been specifically created by Greg Moore, of the uMngeni Municipality GIS department, as a practical aid for learners to locate landmarks on the map and then develop a key.
Up on Beacon Hill with our arms stretched wide, we taught how to determine direction, North, South, East and West.
Whilst one group traced their way through their maps, another explored the flower and grass species. The children were amazed to discover there were so many – all with different textures.
They learnt why it is important to care for our fast diminishing grasslands. Many of the children shook their heads in disbelief when we told them that like the Zebra, we too, rely on grasses as a staple food source – sugar, wild rice, porridge, bread and mielie meal.
After tea, we returned to the museum to complete a treasure hunt, followed by some dramatic action where we animated a story from the past, leaping back in time to Howick in 1913. Time travel into another era is an opportunity for children to connect with the past, using real life displays to understand events, circumstances and how people lived a simpler, slower paced life a 100 years ago.
We dressed our main characters and took the excited mobile audience around the museum “scenes” using real props from 1913; a telephone, a dentists room, a typical kitchen, the parlour and, of course, Beacon Hill. An impressive character was the wise Inyanga we consulted (played by Tau Lenkane – Museum Assistant). Back in 1913 he was used his knowledge of medicinal plants on Beacon Hill to prepare muthi for a child with tooth ache.
We continued these social science activities with a recap session outside under an old Yellowwood tree. It became evident that the children had understood many of the lessons from the past. By enjoying this learning experience, they will not only grow in knowledge but hopefully develop a sense of responsibility for local heritage.
Mr Mkizwe, Grade 5 Teacher from Sifisesihle was thrilled with the Beacon Hill excursion. He said that “We as teachers never got to leave the classroom to see for ourselves what lies beyond. Many of the teachers are unable teach about the outdoor because they have never really had the chance. The children are still talking about the trip and that have learnt more about nature than a book or a teacher, standing in front of a blackboard could ever tell them, thank you special Bugs”.
Great learning, creative education and partnership. A perfect day out, right on our doorstep.
see: http://www.mmaep.co.za and http://www.howickmuseum.co.za
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This is a such an exciting outdoor experience for this group of school children. It is exactly what I envisioned when Con Roux first asked me what my macro picture or
plans were for their EcoSchool involvement. Such an excellent all-round learning experience when the outdoors becomes the classroom.