The aim of the ALERT Education Centre (AEC) through its 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 March and April, 74 students from Takunda Primary School completed the conservation education programme. Students covered all six modules of the curriculum: Conservation, African Animals, African Habitats, African Countries, African Cats, and Tracks and Signs, through practical and interactive activities designed to make the teaching engaging for more effective learning.
Module 1 – Introduction to Conservation
To introduce the topic, students were asked for their thoughts on conservation, before learning about the value of conservation, the threats to wildlife conservation, and how they can personally contribute to the conservation of wildlife and the environment. To encourage them to adopt critical and evaluative thinking, a debate was held on the pros and cons of killing wildlife. Later, a snare sweep was carried out at Antelope Park, so that the students could put the theory into a practical context.
Module 2 – African Animals
This module, a favourite of most students, introduced them to, not only the Big Five, but also the Small Five, and the Ugly Five – the marabou stork, vulture, warthog, wildebeest, and hyena! It was also an opportunity to address a number of common cultural misconceptions, such as the belief that snakes, owls, vultures, and hyenas are evil animals to be used in witchcraft. The children were given the chance to ask questions about wild animals and learned about each animal’s value to the overall ecosystem.
As part of this module, the students spent a day at the local SPCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals), where they were given a tour and a talk about the work the SPCA in Gweru does. They also contributed to the welfare of the animals in the SPCA’s care by cleaning the shelters, weeding the grounds and picking up litter.
Module 3 – African Habitats
Module three focused on the four main habitats types: savannah, rainforest, desert, and mountains. Students were tasked with studying one of the habitats and then had to use their artistic skills to create a collage depicting its characteristics, before presenting their work to the rest of the class.
Module 4 – African Countries
The socio-economic, political, wildlife, physical, and cultural environment of the different countries represented by the community volunteers present at the lesson were discussed. The students were intrigued by the differences between these countries and their own in almost every aspect. They in turn were asked to give a presentation about Zimbabwe to the volunteers. Facts about other African countries were then discussed.
Module 5 – African Cats
In this module, students looked at the backgrounds, biology, behaviours, and threats to Africa’s big cats. ALERT’s work was explained, as well as the different professions involved in the field of wildlife conservation. Many students were not aware of these areas of study and potential careers and were enthused by the possibilities with regard to their own future careers.
Module 6 – Tracks and Signs
This last module on basic tracking and plant recognition was conducted partly in the classroom, and partly in-the-field on graduation day at Antelope Park, where students had the opportunity to observe game species and recognise animals from their tracks and other signs, such as scat (droppings).
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.