A Change for the Better
June 14 2017

After a month-long holiday, students from Mukamusaba School in Livingstone returned to their conservation education lessons by looking at the delicate balance between the environment in which animals live and the ways they are adapted to that environment.  This included how variations can lead to long-term adaptation and evolution. 

Research interns and volunteers plan that week's lesson together and then enjoy the drive to meet the students

The first lesson focused on establishing how different species play different roles within the ecosystem and how they have adapted to suit those roles.  Students were encouraged to recognise adaptations that are specific to being a carnivore, or a herbivore, and how these can be related to the actions of attack, defence and scavenging.  In small groups, they were given two pictures; one showing a white rhino and the other a black rhino.  The students were asked to identify the main differences and similarities between the two and how those can be linked to the animal’s behaviour. 

The lesson ended with a discussion on the concepts of predator, prey and scavenger.  Using pictures of different species, students looked at a range of adaptations of animals and decided which feature each one has that makes it either a successful predator, or good at avoiding becoming prey.

In the following lesson, students explored how animals have adapted to survive in certain biomes and how they struggle if these conditions undergo rapid change.  The lesson related the physical and behavioural traits of African organisms with regard to the environments in which they live.  After a short quiz to recap the previous lesson, the children were split in four groups according to the four biomes: desert, wetland, forest and savannah.  Each group was given an animal adapted to their specific biome and asked to discuss the features that allow that species to survive in that kind of environment.  For the desert group this was a camel, wetland a hippo, savannah an impala, and forest a baboon. 

The class then discussed adaptations within the human species in relation to different environments, including how humans change the environment to suit themselves, rather than the other way around, and also how this impacts other organisms.

The last two lessons on this topic looked at how animals have different variations which help them survive. Emphasis was placed on the important roles which variations, adaptations, and natural selection play in evolution.  In two groups, the students discussed the differences between extinction due to natural causes and extinction as a result of human influence.

A debate followed, based on the statement “Some scientists believe it may be possible to use remains of dead animals and living elephants to bring mammoths back from extinction.  Do you think it is a good idea or not?”  The students were asked to consider why they think mammoths became extinct and how they believe it would affect the environment and humankind if they were reintroduced.

About ALERT’s Conservation Education Project

Our conservation education syllabus was developed by ALERT in partnership with Coventry University and David Brackstone of John Taylor High School.  Evaluation of the effectiveness of the syllabus in changing attitudes towards a more positive view of conservation has been undertaken by Coventry University as well as by Ruth Armstrong, of Edinburgh Napier University.  ALERT has also established a tripartite agreement between ALERT, Copperbelt University (Zambia) and Midlands State University (Zimbabwe) to improve conservation education provision in these two countries.

The syllabus has four main objectives:

- to increase participants’ awareness of their environment and assist them in developing sound judgement in the management of natural resources;

- to involve participants in activities to increase their understanding of environmental issues;

- to encourage participants to develop the ability to view situations from an environmental point of view, and to undertake simple investigations and interpret the results, and;

- to emphasize to participants the potential of the environment as a source of benefits and therefore something to conserve, manage and sustain.

This work combines science with local knowledge, to ensure we deliver a conservation education curriculum that positively impacts upon students’ attitudes and behaviours, and is culturally appropriate for the children and communities we reach.

About ALERT Education Centres (AEC)

Conservation Education is one aspect of the work of our ALERT Education Centres.  The AEC operations at Livingstone (Zambia), Victoria Falls and Antelope Park (Zimbabwe) are all aimed at supporting the formal education system by offering extra-curricular activities to enhance student learning, and assisting with access to education for vulnerable students.  Current programs include the provision of classes in conservation education, basic life skills, and English literacy.  In addition, we provide funding to pay the fees of vulnerable students to take part in education from pre-school to university level, and fully funded internship and facilitated research placements for university level students.  Future programmes will incorporate classes in numeracy, health & nutrition, physical education and business studies/entrepreneurship, as well as a variety of vocational training.  The AEC is operated in association with Coventry University (UK), Midlands State University (Zimbabwe) and Copperbelt University (Zambia), and with the assistance of David Brackstone of John Taylor High School (UK).   The first AEC, at Antelope Park, was opened in 2012 by the then Zimbabwe Minister of Education, Mr. David Coltart.

Join us at the AEC

ALERT offers a Conservation Education internship for those keen to gain hands-on teaching experience, while contributing to the protection and preservation of Africa’s wildlife.  Interns will help in preparing and delivering lessons both in the classroom and on field trips.  The syllabus encompasses environmental conservation, ecology and biodiversity, sustainability, and wildlife ecology and management.  If you are interested in an internship at the AEC at Antelope Park click here full details.

Make a donation to support our work.

If you are able to contribute to fund our conservation education programme, you can make a donation here.


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