by Darian Hall & Fortunate M. Phaka
We had the honour of being hosted by Limpopo-Lipadi nature reserve at their research house for 6 nights during July 2016. The main purpose of our visit was to join the reserve’s conservation education program as educators to 5 learners that were also afforded the privilege of spending 6 nights at the reserve. This opportunity also helped us to obtain video footage that we could use to raise conservation awareness. The lessons prepared by our team went better than expected. The ratio of learners to educators allowed for a more hands-on learning experience. This also helped to form better relationships with learners thus allowing better participation.
Using Jenga blocks to visually represent a food chain and a balanced world made it easy for the learners to grasp that over-utilization of natural resources leads to an unbalanced world. People formed the highest level of the food chain and this served well in illustrating our connection to the environment and that almost everything we do to our environment eventually affects our wellbeing. With the Jenga blocks food chain as the foundation for our lessons we could easily relate the importance of conservation to the learners’ livelihoods, Botswana’s economy and farming.
Avoiding the conventional classroom setup and routine for lessons was refreshing for the children. This made lessons something to look forward to on a daily basis. Conservation knowledge is not as lax as we originally thought. The biggest gap was in understanding how conservation is connected to people. The learners had concepts of conservation covered in their schools’ curricula but for the most the part they could not relate the concepts to their everyday lives.
Camera lessons and applying them to conservation work was very interesting for the learners. Teaching them how cameras worked and letting them go out and use the cameras on their own added some fun to the lessons while also teaching them a little bit about wildlife filmmaking and photography as professions with direct links to conservation. Being out on game drives and providing background knowledge on some of the smaller, lesser known animals and insects (termites, tortoises etc.) piqued the children’s interest. This also allowed for us to link these back to previous lessons and reinforce some of the themes we wanted to impart.
For future lessons it would be a good idea to talk more about animal and plant adaptations, and how we also need to adapt more and dominate less of the world. We briefly touched on bird beak and wing adaptations, and plant seed protection and water conservation. These were fascinating to the learners as it made them think more critically about everyday things they never paid much attention to.