#03 2020

Kids in Parks

By Tshililo Ramaswiela, Field Technician, SAEON Arid Lands Node

Over the past few years, the Science Engagement programme of the SAEON Arid Lands Node has been conveying scientific knowledge and skills to learners through the Kids in Parks initiative. The programme is run by South African National Parks in partnership with the Departments of Basic Education and Environmental Affairs.

This national project aims to provide unique opportunities for disadvantaged schools to learn about South Africa’s natural and cultural heritage. Learners and their educators get to interact with the natural environment as well as with scientists, rangers, volunteers and learners from other schools.

Getting to grips with climate change

In February this year, the Mokala National Park presented science-engagement curriculum-based activities at Mofele Environmental Education Centre. Participating schools included six primary schools (Montshiwa, Kgabang, Rietrivier, Plooysburg, Salt Lake and Boitshoko) and two special schools (Boitumelo and Retlameleng).

The three-day stay in the park included a “Know your National Parks” exercise, a fashion show with clothing made from recycled materials, and an award and certificate ceremony.

SAEON technicians attended the event and gave presentations on “Facing the harsh realities of climate change”. The learners were fascinated to learn about the causes and impacts of climate change as well as mitigation and adaptation measures. The challenge was to give presentations that also catered for learners with special needs.

One of the teachers came to our aid by interpreting the key messages with sign language and translating them into local Setswana. It was very encouraging to see kids with hearing challenges getting excited merely by looking at the images in the presentation.

Knowledge gained

The presentation on climate change was useful for educators who are now planning to incorporate some of the elements into their teaching. Some teachers were not aware that there is a national park a mere 70 km from Kimberley, whereas others thought the park might not be a safe place to visit.

”I will bring my family here and my kids will learn about this beautiful natural place,” one of the teachers said.

Like their teachers, the learners had an opportunity to view wildlife in their natural environment. For some of the kids it was the first time they travelled outside Kimberley.

Although the programme can only accommodate a few schools per season, the proposed plan is to engage with as many rural schools as possible.

SAEON’s Tshililo Ramaswiela leads the learners in a discussion about climate change issues

Learning through an interpreter… a teacher translates the information into local Setswana