Although we are always grateful for rain in Zimbabwe, the frequency and quantity of downpours throughout February made many areas of the Zambezi National Park inaccessible, severely hampering ALERT’s varied research activities. While the research team endeavoured to spend as much time out in-the-field as possible, several sessions had to be cancelled due to Park closures, or at the least curtailed upon reaching sections of road that were impassable.
Photograph: Kathleen Retourné
Even though our researchers were stuck in the mud, the wet weather didn’t put a dampener on ALERT’s conservation education activities, with students from Chamabondo and Sekebelo Primary Schools learning about wildlife, insects, spiders, scorpions and food chains/webs.
The aim of ALERT’s conservation education programme is to encourage children and local communities’ engagement with the natural environment in which they live, and to assist them in understanding the advantages of living alongside and conserving local wildlife, habitat and ecosystems.
During the lesson about African wildlife, students were able to take part in a question and answer session with one of the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZPWMA) officers. As it is farming season when youngsters spend a lot of time in the fields helping to tend the family’s livestock, he also gave them advice on how to react if they encountered wildlife, as well as strategies to deal with human-wildlife conflict (HWC).
A lesson on insects, scorpions and spiders followed, towards the end of which a game called “Who am I?” was played, with students hearing three clues before having to guess the correct animal or insect.
Sekebelo Primary School pupils eager to answer the question "Who am I?”
February’s lessons ended on the topic of food chains and food webs. This session focussed on kinaesthetic learning, where learners carry out a physical activity themselves, rather than listening to a teacher or watching a demonstration. Working together as a team was encouraged, as students were put into groups to collaborate on creating food chains from strips of paper and pictures of animals.
Chamabondo Primary School pupils working together to make food chains
With a World Wildlife Quiz to be held on March 23rd to celebrate this year’s World Wildlife Day theme of “Big Cats”, the students were eager to learn and ask questions in preparation.
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.