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.
At the start of the most recent lesson, a short quiz was held to recap previous sessions, ensuring that students had remembered and understood what they had been taught so far.
After that, it was the job of ALERT’s two local interns, Jacob and Gibson, to introduce the new topic: identifying endangered species and their threats. They started by explaining the meaning of the terms keystone, indicator, umbrella, and flagship with regard to different species types:
- Keystone - a dominant species without which the ecosystem would suffer, for example, a predator who regulates the population size of prey species
- Indicator - a species whose well-being is a sign of the overall health of the ecosystem
- Umbrella - a species whose conservation indirectly affects the conservation of other species within the same ecosystem
- Flagship - a species (usually ‘charismatic’, such as the African elephant) which acts as an ambassador for its environment and encourages support for wider conservation
Having been given several examples of each species type, students were then divided into four groups and tasked with coming up with further examples. Next, they were given 12 endangered animals to choose from on fact sheets placed around the classroom. Each group had 30 minutes to study their animal in more detail - its characteristics, habitat, feeding behaviour, conservation status, the main threats to its survival, and what can be done to conserve it - before presenting their findings to the rest of the class. The lesson concluded with a group discussion on how each of the four key species types plays an important role in conservation.
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.