Monday, February 13, 2012

NSF Coupled Systems Project Education Program- CARACAL partnership

The Conservation Club under CARACAL is off to a great start this school year! The Conservation Club meets at both Kasane and Kazungula Primary Schools once a week after school is done for the day to learn about the importance of protecting the amazing and unique environment they live in. Our year long, NSF - WildiZe-funded curriculum seeks to educate the students in the Chobe district about environmental problems in their own communities, as well as relate world wide problems to them. The curriculum covers topics like climate change, endangered species, overfishing, and, most importantly, the protection and conservation of our greatest natural resource, water. Both Kazungula and Kasane are located right next to the Chobe River and many people make a living off of this waterway, whether it be from fishing or tourism. Therefore it is of vital importance to teach every generation the best ways to live sustainably next to such an importance resource so that these communities will be able to maintain their livelihoods for years to come.
            Our first lesson was last week and after a brief introduction about CARACAL and the goals of the class, the students were asked about what they thought were signs of a healthy environment versus signs of an unhealthy environment. After talking about some examples, the whole club went for a walk around the school and the surrounding area to look for some of these examples. The goal of this lesson was to help the children understand that when they see healthy animals and growing plants as well as clean water, they will know that the ecosystem is healthy. However, the children were also asked to look for signs of an unhealthy environment, and at both schools the main problem was litter. When the students were asked what they could do to make their environment more healthy, all of them suggested to pick up the litter. Our nature walk ended up doubling as a trash clean up and the schoolyards looked much better after our hard work!

            At Kazungula, the club spotted another sign of an unhealthy environment besides the trash, a leaking sewer pipe. While to the casual observer, this leak would just look like a normal puddle next to the road, the children recognized that this water was coming from a sewer pipe. This was a great example for the kids to find because it showed them that not everything is as it appears in the environment and although they might first think that the ecosystem is healthy, sometimes it is necessary to take a closer look to discover the problem.
After this introductory lesson, the curriculum will be focusing on several different animals that can be found in Chobe that are misunderstood or that the children don’t know too much about, such as spiders, snakes, crocodiles, and bees, and their importance to the environment. Many of these animals are considered dangerous but there is no one to explain to the children what actually classifies these animals as a threat. For example, since they have been taught that all snakes are dangerous, many of the children will throw stones at a snake in self-defense if they see one, when in reality the snake is trying to avoid humans and has no intention of harming anyone. By educating the students about the habits and lifestyles of these misunderstood animals, people will feel less threatened by the wildlife they share their environment with. Since all of these animals need water to survive, although some rely on it more than others, like the crocodile, these lessons will be able to incorporate the main theme of the curriculum, protecting and conserving clean water, into each class.
We’re looking forward to an exciting first quarter full of games and field trips to help the children learn in a hands on way about the amazing things in their environment!



  1. I'd like to ask a question rather than make a comment since I teach environmental education to students in Swaziland where litter is also a major problem.

    Do you foresee the spontaneous litter clean-up the students engaged in as the start of a change in behavior, or are they likely to fall back into their habit of littering?

    In Swaziland, it is such an ingrained habit that it's going to take quit a while to change, and though clean-ups such as this are helpful they do not address the underlying problem. So I am curious to know how things will play out there.

    Elaine Franklin

    1. Dear Elaine,
      As with most things, change can take time. We have found the children are incredibly responsive and excited about being part of a change. The problem with waste is that it's origins are often community wide and there are a number of reasons why it occurs or persists in a particular area. Children are often little involved. But as these children grow up and turn into voices in their community, they are poised to effect greater change incrementally. I think around the world, generational change is hoped for in environmental education.

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