WORLD LION DAY
In August we got some of our younger students very excited about conservation education! On World Lion Day on the 10th, we teamed up with our sister organisation, African Impact (AI), and arranged some special activities for our Grade 5-7 children. As part of the festivities, we introduced 10 children from Linda School in Livingstone to 19 rural children from Twabuka and Maunga Primary Schools (along with Mr Mulena, the Maunga Grade 6 teacher) and brought them together for an exciting day out at our Dambwa Forest site. Town and village children don’t often get the opportunity to mingle and we were keen to give them a chance to work and play together.
In the run up to the big day, Book and Kids Club activities in all three of our rural school focused on lions and the importance of conserving them. Supported as always by our members of staff and lovely volunteers, the children learned to name the parts of a lion’s body and then, comparing the food children and lions eat, they looked for similarities and differences between themselves and lions. There was a special emphasis on explaining why lions sometimes attack livestock and even people living in rural villages. Our aim was for the children to understand that these animals are facing huge threats caused by people and that if we can learn to live harmoniously alongside our wild neighbours, human-wildlife conflict can be significantly reduced and rural communities will benefit from their proximity.
Teachers, students and volunteers getting creative
An important aspect of these sessions was to give the children an opportunity to explore their feelings about lions. After drawing a picture of a lion, the children were asked about their thoughts, feelings and fears. The overriding emotion expressed by those from the villages was fear. To help them put their anxiety into perspective, we played a Dominoes game where the children linked sentences to describe what is currently happening to African wildlife - especially the lion population. As we completed this activity, the children could see that if the present devastation continues and lions become extinct, the negative impact of their loss will be much greater than the risks we face by living side-by-side with these powerful predators – especially as the risks can often be effectively managed. By the end of these sessions, the children began to understand that conserving wildlife brings substantial benefits to local people. More wildlife encourages more tourists to visit and this, in turn, brings more jobs and helps to improve Zambia’s economic situation.
On World Lion Day itself we put theory into practice in the Dambwa Forest with our town and rural children. While volunteers, staff and children had a lot of fun making lion masks, ALERT wristbands and headbands together in the boma, one of the highlights of the day was taking the children to the enclosures to meet some of our lions. They loved getting up close and personal and Fred, our patient lion handler, explained a little about lions and ALERT’s conservation programme in their own language - something the children really seemed to appreciate. The kids had fun testing out some of the facts Fred gave them by watching the lions search out and focus on the smallest child and by having one child walk away from the group and seeing whether or not the lions would follow him or her (they did!). The Maunga children were also very interested in the security system that separates them from the lions. The rural children can hear our lions roar from their villages and they were very reassured to see all of the locked gates and fences.
After sharing lunch, we began an activity that has already become a mainstay of both Conservation Education and Kids Club: The Conservation Game created by community intern Céline Landolt and Conservation Education curriculum writer Dave Brackstone. The game began with children as lions and staff and volunteers as poachers. “Evil Daryl” and “Devious Donna” encouraged the poachers to catch as many lions as they could so they could all be rich. This part of the game ended very quickly as the poachers soon ran out of lions. When we asked the children what went wrong, they said there was no-one to protect the lions so the poachers killed them all.
Teaching poachers about conservation to turn them into conservationists
Friendly Dave and Evil Daryl!
In the second round of the game, a few of the children became conservationists who tried to catch the poachers and release the lions. This became a never-ending cycle of trying to catch poachers and save lions with no-one, apart from Evil Daryl and Devious Donna – who weren’t even from Africa! - winning. The children were becoming too tired to carry on so we took a break and asked them what we needed to change before starting our next round. This time, when poachers were caught, they were taken to Conservation Education instead of just serving time in jail. By the time they “graduated”, the poachers had turned into conservationists – much to Evil Daryl and Devious Donna’s disgust as they suddenly found there were lots of lions but no-one was willing to poach for them anymore. It was off to jail and some conservation education for them too!
Taking poachers off to conservation education
Poachers in jail
We’ve now played this game with children of all ages in 3 of our 4 schools and even have teachers joining in the fun. When we played it with our Grade 8 and 9 children at Mukamusaba, at the end of the game Conservation Education teacher Dave Brackstone asked the students, “So in reality, who teaches the people about wildlife and tells them that conservation is important?” Rebecca thought for a few moments and then replied, “It’s us!” We think Rebecca has summed it all up just perfectly.
Lions, watch your back!
About ALERT’s Conservation Education Project
Our year-long 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.