ID keys at Mukamusaba
February 2 2016

At the beginning of January, before the holidays ended, existing attendees at our conservation education course at Mukamusaba School continued to learn about identification keys and how they are used by scientists and researchers.  The lesson had two main objectives; the first was to know how asking the right questions can help distinguish between animal groups.  The second aimed at teaching the kids about the basic differences between the vertebrate groups.  To begin with the students were given the names of the groups and questions based on these groups.  They were asked to create an ID key using these questions, which could only be answered with 'yes' or 'no' to lead to identifying each group. 

To underline their learning, students undertook a similar activity to identify the four big cats of the world (Lion, Leopard, Tiger, and Jaguar).  Also, an identification key for insect orders was presented to the students, along with three real insect specimens so that they could use the key to identify the insects.

As the new school year began, Con Ed received a huge influx of students who are now entering grade eight and are therefore attending conservation education for the first time.  The first session of the academic year on the 13th of January saw 49 children turn up and much of the session was spent introducing them to Con Ed and its objectives.

Evaluating our educational interventions is vital to ensure we are meeting our objectives and having a positive impact on course attendees.  As such, the following week more than 50 pupils took part in conservation research questionnaires which aim to assess what they feel about the Con Ed course and about the environment.

 “Conservation in action”

This past week saw the start of a module that uses ALERT as a case study of a real life conservation project to assist in learning about conservation interventions.  Initially students tried to answer the question of why conservation projects are needed and how they benefit local people.  The lesson progressed by looking at four wildlife groups (large carnivores, herbivores, small mammals and plants) and considering why they need protecting.  In groups, which were assigned one of the groups to consider, the pupils tried to answer three questions;

  1. Why might this animal or plant be in danger?
  2. How would losing this organism affect the ecosystem?
  3. How would losing it affect people?

Pupils were then asked to present their findings to the rest of the class for further discussion.

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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