An Update on ALERT's Conservation Education Syllabus
July 5 2016

The Role of National Parks

After spending time in lesson one of this module describing the main driving forces of land conflict, lesson two focused on discussing the role that national parks play in conservation, and how they benefit the economy of communities living next to them.  In opening the lesson, pupils were asked to name as many national parks in Africa as possible, and to list common animals that are found in national parks.

To encourage individual participation, pupils were put into smaller groups for further discussions.  With one project volunteer in each group acting as a facilitator, pupils were asked to discuss how national parks and game reserves protect wildlife, and what activities must happen to protect the environment.  Discussions then moved on to address what the main advantages and disadvantages of national parks are.  Groups were encouraged to focus on the importance of increased biodiversity and how tourism contributes to the growth of local economies.  On the other hand, the class was also reminded to consider how national parks could interfere with other important land uses.  In closing the lesson, the groups were asked to come up with a poster that could be put at the entrance of a national park highlighting the most important rules when visiting. 

It’s Election Time

After dealing with both different land uses and roles of national parks, lesson three in the module was a problem based learning session, aimed at providing a platform for the pupils to use the knowledge and understanding from the previous two lessons to evaluate different view-points and come to a reasoned decision to be supported by a sustainable plan.

Pupils were asked to imagine themselves being community members living in a town located between a national park and a game reserve area.  In this scenario, both wildlife areas are well known for their endangered species of antelopes that migrate between the two.  In that particular year, the community was scheduled to have an election for the position of mayor.  There are three candidates fighting for this position, each with a different policy regarding the land between the national park and the game reserve.  Because there are mineral deposits, candidate one wants to mine the land for 10 years.  Candidate two believes that the land should be used for agriculture to support the growing human population in the town.  Candidate three wants to officially protect the land and create a wildlife corridor between the national park and game reserve.

After each candidate had given their five-minute speech in support of their cause, the pupils were given pieces of paper for them to vote for their preferred candidate.  Candidate three won the election and the decision to create a wildlife corridor was agreed upon.

Designing a Conservation Project

Lesson four in the module challenged the pupils to follow up their election result by designing a conservation project to manage the national park, game reserve area, and the wildlife corridor between the two.  The lesson aimed at uncovering how a conservation project can not only protect wildlife, but also generate sustainable benefits to the local economy and its residents.  The class was divided into six groups and a volunteer was assigned to work with one group each.  Pupils were given large pieces of paper on which to design their projects, asking them to present their ideas to the class at the end.  They were encouraged to consider how their project will protect both wildlife and people, create jobs, provide health care and education, and how the project will earn money.  At the end, each group presented to the rest of the class how their project would meet the needs of both wildlife and people.

The Relationship between Man and Nature

Meanwhile, at the ALERT Education Centre in Gweru, 64 students from the nearby Takunda Primary School joined the conservation education programme.  Their first lesson focused on pollution; the causes and effects.  Students eagerly joined in a litter pick after learning the theory.  In other lessons, students created conservation posters as part of their learning.

However, it was not all hard work.  One of the project volunteers, Anam Vadgama delivered a dance class to the ALERT Education Centre.  All in attendance experienced the spirit of 'Bollywood' through dance, while having a lot of fun.

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.

Support the AEC

If you would like to support the activities of our AEC operations please click here.

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