Once upon a time, a colourful butterfly fluttered down from the forest edge to read stories at a little farm school…
In 2003, the Midlands Meander Association recognised that, for the continued success of the route, it was important to initiate projects which included all members of the community. With a budget of just a few thousand rand and a couple of enthusiastic volunteers, the Midlands Meander Association Education Project (MMAEP) was born the next year.
Then a fortuitous meeting, over a cup of tea with N3Toll Concession (N3TC), created a partnership which has flourished through the years. “You never know what sharing a pot of Earl Grey will lead to!” laughs Nikki Brighton, founder of the project. Con Roux, Commercial Manager N3TC adds “I was entranced from the start. The project has delivered exceptional results, not only in terms of tangible results, but more importantly in helping schools to take up the challenge to achieve against all odds. The Bugs bring colour and excitement to schools with amazing passion and a touch of their special magic – the essential ingredient for any successful initiative.”
The Bugs (as the MMAEP facilitators have become known) are creative, eco-conscious people, passionate about the environment and bursting with love. A unique hands-on approach to environmental education ensures that learners, teachers and community members all participate.
Learning often happens outdoors into the school grounds – planting wildlife friendly gardens and teaching about soil and sunlight, earthworms, energy, weather, water, indigenous plants, invasive species. Giant posters, hand puppets and simple experiments help educators incorporate environmental learning into lessons every day.
Believing that traumatised children find it difficult to consider the needs of the natural environment when they are under stress, the Bugs begin each school morning with quiet time and breathing. “The sheer gusto with which you approach your tasks is amazing. No one who has anything to do with you team can walk away unaffected. One has to be impressed, energised and inspired.” Nathi Majola – Principal, Carshalton Primary
Jessica Dreamtime, Project Manager, and her team have recently compiled a colourful book celebrating the MMAEP journey. She says “Our fun-filled days of meaningful environmental education are strengthening community, improving learning and changing lives. The 20 schools now registered in our programme have started integrating environmental education into everyday life. Learners are growing in confidence and capability – understanding our environment and becoming resilient by taking positive action. School yards are being transformed into productive organic food gardens. Children are discovering the joys of reading and writing, all creatures are respected and small things are valued.”
The Midlands Conservanices Forum (MCF) believes that in order to protect precious eco-systems and the goods and services that they provide to society, it is important to educate and inspire learners to understand and value them. Rather than reinventing the wheel, Midlands Conservancies Forum partner with the Midlands Meander Association Education Project (MMAEP) to strengthen environmental learning in the region.
To ensure that the magic lasts forever, the MMAEP has engaged in regular reflection and strategic planning, developed its educational methodology and resource base and, of course, made hundreds and hundreds of magic hats.
Here’s to a flourishing and colourful partnership for the next decade! http://www.mmaep.co.za