Fishy Business
June 3 2016

On the 4th of May, our conservation education syllabus in Livingstone, Zambia, focused on identifying the main features of fish and the major benefits fish offer to humans.  The lesson developed by helping the pupils to identify the major threats to fish stocks, and how losing fish would negatively impact - not only the ecosystem they live in - but also the people who rely on fish as a source of food.

As an introduction to the lesson, pupils listed all the different water bodies they could think of, and it was explained that these can be split into two main types (fresh and salt water) and that only certain types of fish can live in each.  Laminated fish outlines were given to the pupils for them to list the main features of fish and how those features help fish to thrive in aquatic ecosystems.  The lesson further developed by asking pupils to discuss the major benefits of fish to humans and the ecosystem as a whole.  To conclude the lesson, our project volunteers led a discussion on the major threats to fish.  In discussing the threats, the students compared over-fishing to over-hunting of terrestrial mammals, and how the two exploit natural resources without allowing them to reproduce for future generations.  

Land Conflict

One of the biggest threats to all natural habitats is the demand that humans put on the land for other uses. For the past two week’s lessons, conservation education focused on exploring different land uses, including natural, urban, agriculture and industrial uses.

To open the lesson, each pupil was asked to draw a picture on a whiteboard to express what the word ‘conflict’ means to them.  By doing so, we received different expressions spanning every form of difference between people.  The team further went on to explain that a conflict can be any disagreement or opposition in opinion, and that this can include disagreements arising from different interests between two or more parties over a piece of land.  It was made clear that this conflict is not limited to between human parties, but that it could also be between humans and wildlife.  To demonstrate this, an example of human-elephant conflict was explained to the class to help them understand the breadth of land conflict.  

After defining urbanisation, primary industry, agriculture and natural use as being the four major categories of land uses, pupils were split in groups and asked to list how land in sub-Sahara is used.  With both volunteers and staff members leading the four groups, the pupils considered all the conflicting points between the land uses, as well as listing both the advantages and disadvantages of particular land uses.  Pupils were asked to relate their answers to how that land use will affect the environment, the economy of the nation, local people, and future generations.  After discussion among themselves, two representatives from each group shared to the rest of the class what they learnt in their group. 

The National Parks of Zimbabwe

Meanwhile, conservation education lessons at our Victoria Falls project site focused on protected areas within the country.  Pupils started by learning about the geography of Zimbabwe, differences between tribal groups, provinces and languages.  Each of Zimbabwe’s National Parks was located on a map and we discussed the importance of those ecosystems to local communities and the nation as a whole.  The lessons also focused on indigenous wildlife in Zimbabwe, their characteristics, behaviour and the importance of protecting them.

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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