Frogs, Flatworms and Fun in Fort Nottingham

Lion’s Bush Conservancy (LBC) supports two Fort Nottingham schools – Silindile and Nkonka. LBC used their allocation of the funds that Midlands Conservancies Forum raised from N3TC (to support environmental learning and strenghten relationships between Conservancies and schools) for hands on wetland lessons facilitated by the Midlands Meander Association Education Project (MMAEP). “This has been hugely worthwhile, we are very pleased with the activities.” said Val Tabenor afterwards.

Penz Malinga spent time at Silindile School and complied this report:  It was a lovely sunny morning the day learners from Silindele School took a little walk to the wetland below their school to study it.

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Half of the kids had done a wetland study the previous year with me at Bill Barnes Nature Reserve with the KZN Crane Foundation. We recapped a bit on what we had done the previous year.

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The learners were divided into 5 groups, mixing up those who had done the study and those had not. Armed with prior knowledge they were given instructions to go on a self-exploration expedition on the Wetland and each group had a specific topic to report back on to others.

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The first group had to look at the plants in the wetland, the second had to find animal evidence, the next group had to look at the soil,

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another had to report back on the state of the water and the last group was to make something out of wetland resources.

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The learners dashed into the water with enthusiasm, they seemed to be enjoying being scientists studying the Wetland water. The time given for the task elapsed and they came back to report back on other groups. Their findings showed they had remembered quite a bit and it was wonderful for those with prior knowledge to teach others in their group.

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One of the questions asked was; “how can you tell if the wetland is clean or dirty?” and that is when I whipped out water quality slides that we assembled and studied step by step. The slides highlighted that the presence of bloodworms, flatworms and leeches in great numbers generally meant that the Wetland was in poor condition.

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We then put on our frog masks and learners participated in a play where a group of frogs that worked in a cabbage farm toyi toyi to protested against the use of poisonous pesticides on the cabbages Toxins get washed away into the River poisoning the hundreds of million invertebrates that are their food and poisoning also their water.

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After the noise of the toyi toyi, singing happy frog songs and sad frog songs we went back to school and the day ended with refreshments.

Nkanyiso Ndlela visited Nkonka Primary, another tiny school in the area, and sent this report: I met two friendly teachers before meeting the learners, Nsiki Nxumalo (principal) and Bongumusa Phuthing (teacher). I introduced myself, MMAEP and Lions Bush Conservancy.

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I divided them into three groups and  I gave the learners a chance to discuss  and write down what they know about wetlands, just to get their level of understanding.

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They presented their thought of wetlands. “Water is life” they said. They could separate the word ‘wetland’ but they actually didn’t know what a wetland actually is until I mentioned it in Zulu  – “Amaxhaphozi”, then they knew.

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I ask them what they use water and wetlands for in their communities. They mentioned that the animals and plants are dependent on water, we use water for drinking, farmers use water to water their plants and for cleaning. I did a presentation on the importance of, and how to use the wetland sustainably.

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I introduced the WOW picture building game. They had to build the Poster using the picture cards provided to them in their small groups. In this activity learners were fully involved and interacting.

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We then took a walk to a wetland which is dry with channels cut into it.  There were plantation trees surrounding a wetland but still we could see water in the channels.  Plants like incema and uxhaphozi were identified. I explained to them how to identify the possible edges of a wetland by looking at the area, which is in a basin surrounded by mountains and steep slopes.

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We went back to the classroom and spoke about sustaining water and our wetlands and  the possible actions that learners could do to help.  At the end of the lesson, the teacher asked them if they would like me to come back again – they all said “yes”, they would like more natural science lessons. “We as the Nkonka primary school would like to share our sincere gratitude for knowledge and information that was presented to learners in our school. It been a wonderful opportunity for learners to learn things that are impacting their lives in the environment they live in.”

Bongumusa Phuthing, the class teacher commented: “The facilitator  was communicating with learners in a language that allowed the learners to participate in order for a good level of understanding. He was able to draw learner’s attention and make them to be more interested and keen to learn. The lesson was linked within the school’s curriculum. There are topics covered that are also based on what is being taught in the class room such as natural science, technology and life skills.”

“Today’s experience with Nkanyiso was very well structured. His classroom programme was most impressive, detailed and logical. The children were engaged throughout the study and responded enthusiastic and intelligently. Most impressive.” said Sue Savidge of Lions Bush Conservancy afterwards.

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