Each midlands Conservancy receives a slice of the Environmental Learning and Leadership pie for eco-activities in a school of their choice. The idea being to build relationships between conservancies and schools in their areas, and to inspire youngsters to value the biodiversity and ecosystems on which we all rely. As there is little point trying to outdo the professionals at their game, we work with partners MMAEP and KZNCF to do what they do best.
For some, it is easy to decide which school to work with – like Curry’s Post Conservancy. They already support Curry’s Post Primary and are thoroughly enjoying working with the MMAEP to assist the school achieve WESSA Eco-School status. MMAEP have turned the flower beds into veggie gardens and plan to sort out the library next. Recently, the MMAEP Bugs did lessons on Biodiversity.
The little Grade 1 class was introduced to ‘nunu’s’ and learnt that an insect has 6 legs and three body parts and then set off outside on an insect hunt. We managed to find some bugs – a locust (perfect), some flies and ants. Back in the classroom the children were given big pictures of different insects, chose their favourites and drew them with pastels and crayons. This exercise required focused observation and resulted in fantastic pictures.
Grades 2 and 3 played the string card game where everyone is given a card depicting a different animal. The game is about who needs who, not who eats who – the basics of ecology. We played the funky-chicken song and dance game, which is always a great hit, before reading a story. The other older grades learnt the word BIODIVERSITY and played the web of life game. We then selected local animals and birds for them to talk about and draw, ie jackals, cranes and buck. We also talked about habitat and characteristics and played the animal card game which shows the learners all the different species and categories of animals and where they live.
Sarah Allan, Conservancy Chair: “With advice from the MMAEP we have opted for a slow start to our recycling/recovery initiative at Curry’s Post Primary. We’re collecting bread bags for re-use as skipping ropes, old newspapers for paper mache/energy-fire bricks. We’re also encouraging folk to collect the bread tags so they can be donated towards wheelchairs for less privileged people. We don’t want a recycling depot to become a burden or turn the school into an informal dump.”
Mountain Home Primary School in the hills of Sweetwaters was chosen by Winterskloof Conservancy for a day of eco-art. The children were very excited to see the colourful MMAEP visitors arriving. The teachers were busy finishing their reports and were quite happy to hand over ALL the children – we had the Grade 2, 3, and 4 all together. The famous magic hats were distributed. In a large circle we did some fun warm ups and ice breakers including two long massage lines which caused lots of laughter.
We set the Grade 2 and 3 class doing simple puzzles (made from cut up pictorial calendars). They found this VERY difficult. The older grade cut out colour groups from magazines to use in their eco-portfolio.
We had some quiet time and read the story of ‘Siyolo and his jersey’ about a little boy whose jersey begins to unravel and he uses bits of it to help other people. It is a lovely story about kindness and sharing. Afterwards the older children learned how to do printing using polystyrene trays and pencils. They carved out a picture about the story we had read and then lined up to get a selection of acrylic paint roller on to it and learnt how to print it on paper. They came up with some fantastic designs and were thrilled with their resulting pictures. They got more polystyrene and everyone got to do a few different prints in different colours. As they finished they went on to use their coloured shades of magazine cut-outs to create sections for their eco-portfolio. The teachers joined us at the end and were very interested in the printing as it combined recycling with some easy techniques.
For many years Kamberg Conservancy has supported Dabulamanzi Combined School. This year, in collaboration with the KZN Crane Foundation they sponsored an excursion for 26 Grade 4-7 learners to visit the Hlatikhulu Crane Sanctuary, to see and learn about the three African Cranes. After introductions, learners were taken down to the Sanctuary, where the rescued cranes are kept. Learners said they heard about the cranes but most had never seen them, besides a few who had spotted Grey Crowned Cranes on farms in Kamberg. Learners couldn’t believe their eyes when they saw the cranes and couldn’t stop smiling. “The wattled crane is so big” said Siyanda Mncwabe, in awe. The hand reared Grey Crowned Crane called Boston accompanied them throughout the program, keeping the kids very amused.
Learners then enjoyed two lessons from the Cranes in the Classroom series, facilitated by Nkanyiso Ndlela of KZNCF – Footprint Friends and Lily pad Lament. These painting lessons promote crane awareness and caring for the crane’s habitats, which are grasslands and wetlands. Learners and teachers participated well in these activities and the result was beautiful posters. The lessons took longer than expected because some were very slow and want to perfect their posters – they were very proud when they finished.
Cedara Primary School in Khanya Village at Cedara Agricultural Collecge is situated beside a wetland and stream. Doug Burden of uMgenyane Conservancy thought it a good idea to select this school as that stream flows into Gwensspruit which passes through their Conservancy and eventually into the uMngeni river. “Good for the kids to understand the impact their actions in the wetland has on the bigger catchment and down stream users.” he said. MMAEP facilitators, Zinhle Msimango and Gugu Zuma went to visit.
In the Grade 6 and 7 class Zinhle defined the word wetland – a wetland is saturated with water either permanently or seasonally and acts like sponge to store water. When we went to investigate the wetland we found that it was not as big as they thought. We spoke of the plants and animals that can survive on the wetland. We only had a chance to see a crab in the wetland this day, probably because the water is polluted and the wetland to had too much litter and in some areas it had a bad smell.
We did a water cycle lesson for the children and used the Windows on our World Wetland Catchment game. Children used cards and a chart to put right pieces of cards in the right place. Water, wetlands and people.
With the Grade 4 and 5 class Gugu discussed the importance of water and why we need to take a good care of our streams and rivers. They filled in a worksheet with two rivers – one was clean and the another one was dirty. After break everyone went down to the stream to do a mini SASS. This stream does go into the uMngeni river after some time. They were surprised that five million people use water from the uMngeni river. They learnt about the small insects, animals and plants that live in the river. Our miniSASS test showed that water wasn’t in a good condition. “It was a lovely day in the school we had so much fun and learned a lot. You guys are amazing” said learner Ayanda Hlophe.
ZInhle comments: “It was interesting for me and the children as they said they know of wetlands but never had a chance to learn about it and to learn about it practically. I feel people in the area need to be educated in not polluting the wetlands as it seems they just come and leave their rubbish in the wetland. I hope our lessons help. It was a fun, hot, productive day. Thank you to the Midlands Conservancies Forum and uMgenyane Conservancy for supporting meaningful environmental education in the midlands.” Educator Petronella Gasa concludes “We were very glad to meet the new Bugs team. We hope that we can have more environmental lessons with them.” Derren Coetzer, Chair of the uMgenyane Conservancy, is looking into arranging an excursion for the older learners to the Hilton College Nature Reserve later in the year.
World’s View Conservancy battled a bit to find a school to work with, but then hit the jackpot! At Sibongumbovu Primary in Cedara, dynamic Vanessa McKay has recently started working as the English teacher and inspiring Beth Drennan runs the library, ensuring that the learners have regular access to books and a real appreciation of their value to learning.
Eidin Griffin of the MMAEP worked with the Grade 6 and 7 class introducing them to the word Biodiversity (and was thrilled when they came up with the words Biosphere and Bio-fuels). They looked at the concept of trees as habitats and practiced some ‘genius’ techniques like quiet time and breathing exercises. After reading ‘The Lorax’ by Dr. Seuss, everyone skipped outside to plant a Celtis africana (White Stinkwood) near the tap run-off. The younger children danced and sang and blew loving kisses to the tree to help it grow!
In the meantime some big lads were fixing the fence with extra fencing Eidin had brought to the school. Eidin commented: “What a positive day! The school is planning on becoming an WESSA Eco-School next year and many thanks are due to the Worlds View Conservancy and the Midlands Conservancies Forum for arranging this visit.”
Elli Hamilton of World’s View Conservancy comments: “I visited the Grade 7 class the day after Eidin’s visit and Vanessa was in the process of recapping their exciting lesson from the day before. The children were involved and enthusiastic and Vanessa used her laptop to show us all pictures of the lesson and the tree-planting session. During the lesson I was also able to appreciate the colourful , cheerful artworks and displays in the classroom with some even hanging like celebratory bunting from the ceiling. One of the girls took me out to introduce me to the newly planted Celtis Africana and on the way through the grounds I noticed that there is another well established ( 12 year-old? ) Celtis near the school buildings.
It is good to know that Eidin has already made such an impact on these Grade 7 children and as a Conservancy we would most definitely like to stay involved with both the School and MMAEP.I also informed Vanessa that on Thursday 11 December we are organising a Carols by Candlelight service at the Worlds View Girl Guide Hall and it would be really good if some of the school children could attend.”
Learn more about good work of the Midlands Meander Education Project and the KZN Crane Foundation . MCF are proud to count them as partners in our Environmental Learning and Leadership Programme which is funded by N3 Toll Concession.