Bringing a love of nature and the outdoors to young learners was the mission of the Karkloof Conservancy when they embarked on an environmental education programme with the three farm schools in their area between July and November this year. Situated in the lush and scenically beautiful Karkloof Valley, it was the ideal setting to introduce the children from Triandra Primary, Hawkstone Primary and Yarrow Intermediate School to the natural wonders that surround them.
For Sappi, sponsoring the environmental educational schools programme stemmed from their previous support for the Conservancy, dating back many years to the establishment of the Karkloof Conservation Centre and Bird Hides. Here visitors can come to marvel at the three species of crane (blue crane, grey crowned crane and the critically endangered wattled crane) found in the Karkloof area.
Because Sappi relies on a healthy and thriving ecosystem to support the health of its plantations, it prioritises Sustainable Development Goal (SDG)15: Life on Land, and conserves one third of its landholdings for biodiversity conservation. In addition, another of its priority goals, SDG 4: Quality Education, is boosted through its support for this fun and interactive learning journey brought to the children of the Karkloof, focusing on the environment.
Besides the fun outings and focus on nature and the outdoors, the schools also received meaningful educator development input from former experienced teachers who conducted workshops and shared tips on multi grade teaching, comprehension & reading strategies, leadership types, learning styles (auditory, kinesthetic, visual) and lesson planning.
The monthly school visits integrated environmental education into all subjects, incorporating guest speakers like the ‘Snake Man’ Pat Mckrill and ‘The Insect Man’ John Midgely from the KZN Museum who gave fascinating talks about the ecology and importance of snakes and the interesting life of pollinating flies. Nkosinathi Zuma did a lesson on birds and Kelvin Sobe did a lesson on growing vegetables and all three schools participated in a birding outing to the Karkloof Conservation Centre and Hide, where Birdlife KZN Midlands also volunteered their time as bird guides.
Jessica Gird from the Conservancy commented that the programme has successfully highlighted some of the challenges facing the schools and their educators, but thanks to the support of people like Mrs Bev Black (retired Wykeham-Collegiate Foundation phase teacher) progress was being made. “The various outings and presentations by experts by people like Pat and John are always a huge success and they make environmental education so much more engaging for both teachers and children.’’
Carolyn Goble of the Conservancy added: “Going forwards the Karkloof Conservancy hopes to continue the programme. The teachers feel supported and inspired. They have been equipped to create useful resources, teach in more creative ways and have a deeper understanding of learning styles.’’
“We’ve been inspired by the obvious joy and excitement that this programme has brought to the children of the Karkloof and by the commitment and passion shown by the Conservancy members and many volunteers”, commented Mpho Lethoko, Head of Corporate Affairs for Sappi Southern Africa. “This area is also home to our Sappi Trails programme, where we partner with the Karkloof Club in bringing 250km of pristine trails for recreational cycling and trail running to the public, in turn serving as a boost for local ecotourism, creating shared value for the community and helping to create jobs in the area”, she said.
Follow the Karkloof Conservancy on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/karkloof/
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