After our first successful term of lessons at Weber Gedenk Primary school, we embraced the new challenge of our set of lessons with the students from Stellenzicht High School. The school had established a ‘Green Club’ with the help of Usiko and they generously allowed us to facilitate their weekly meetings. The club was mainly comprised of students that Usiko had identified as children who are in need, so the club was primarily used as a platform to broaden the horizons of these students. We were amazed at the knowledge that the children already had about their surrounding environment. They showed a lot of insight as to what was going on around them, our job was simply to tell them more about the underlying ecological principles that were beneath what they saw.
We had setup our lessons to be very interactive and more life-skill based. All the lessons we taught were focused on nature with an underlying message that would inspire or motivate the students. One example of this was the lessons we did with biomes. Using the example of plants and how plants do not specifically choose where they grow in but have to adapt according to the conditions. Similarly, the students are like plants; they do not have control of their environment, but they do have the ability to adapt!
These were the type of messages that were the focus for the high school. We were able to provide the Green Club with basic knowledge on the ecology of the environment around them, whilst at the same time encouraging them and motivating them towards a better and brighter future!
– written by Michele ter Huurne
Following the lessons, we had our first excursion. We took the Stellenzicht High School learners to the Cheetah Outreach in Somerset West. During the morning the children were educated on predators and human-wildlife conflict from a PowerPoint presentation, video and tour of the facility. They learnt the differences between cheetahs and leopards and the reductions in wild populations (from 100 000 one hundred years ago to around 7100 today) occurring due to things such as reduction in their habitats as a result of agriculture and development as well as reduction in prey numbers. 2/3 of the remaining wild cheetahs are found in Southern Africa and they mostly occur in unprotected areas. These areas are popular for livestock farmers. This results in human-wildlife conflict; cheetah hunt the easy prey whilst farmers rely on their livestock for a living and survival. Loss of livestock forces farmers to reside to inhumane methods such as traps/snares, poison and hunting. This is a major threat to the wild cheetah populations.
They also learnt about the contribution of the Cheetah Outreach, i.e. their dog program, in which they breed Anatolian Shepherds and allocate farmers with a puppy, which is introduced into their herd, with whom they form a strong bond. The dog’s instinct is to protect the heard against predators. In return, farmers stop killing the predators. The Cheetah Outreach provides the farmer with a year’s worth of medical care and food for the dog and after this year the farmers can choose whether they want to keep the dog. Because these dogs reduce livestock loss by 95-100% almost all farmers keep the dogs. Thus, the Cheetah Outreach’s main goal is to protect the threatened cheetah population. In Somerset West, the Cheetahs act as conservation ambassadors to educate the public and to raise funds for the program. Because other predators are also affected by traps and poison, they are also protected in the process. The Cheetah Outreach in Somerset West is, therefore, also home to a caracal, servals, black-backed jackals and bat-eared foxes. They even have meerkats, tortoises and of course dogs. The students were taken on a tour to see all these animals. Most of the students had never seen wild animals before. This teaches the students the role of conservation and the difference it can make. After the tour, we all had a nice picnic in the shade and relaxed. Finally, we closed by standing in a circle and giving each person a chance to say how they were feeling and what the learnt and enjoyed about the excursion. This was a great way to end the excursion and left me feeling positive that they really were taking something home with them and that they had a good time.
– written by Clint Cupido