Have you ever looked at a tree as more than a source of shade? Most people's general knowledge on trees will include that they provide oxygen and shade, need water and sunlight, are home to some animals and are a source of food to others. Yet, trees are almost as complex as humans.
From a distance it will be taxing to code the same green on a marula, mopane and leadwood tree, even more so up close and personal when comparing leaf size, colour and even texture. Some trees proudly show off their magnificent trunks that seem to suspend giant umbrellas in mid-air. Others create eerie, dark hide-aways as branches, heavy with masses of broad, dark green leaves, stretch and strain to touch the earth.
At the Children's Eco Training (CET), based in the Klaserie Private Nature Reserve (KPNR), the first rule is to have fun. The second rule says CET co-coordinator, Zani Kunz, is "let's learn something at the same time." For the recent holiday programme, Zani Kunz chose trees as the overall theme.
First she invited renowned tree expert, Meg Coates Palgrave, to sharpen the CET trainers' tree identification and appreciation skills. The CET trainers were joined by two camp guards of Braithwaite and Kieswetter camps, who soon had Meg's identification key for trees in and around the KPNR Head Quarters under control.
"Meg's practical step-by-step approach was a great foundation for the trainers to impart their knowledge to eager young minds from the ages of five to 16 who attend the trainings regularly", says Zani.
"It was great to see the children's delight as the key unlocked their knowledge of the tree variety on site. But it was their gleeful squeals and beaming smiles as they dipped their hands in mulch that was soon to become paper that underlined their happiness. That and the litres and litres of ice-cream donated by Gert and Sunette Rautenbach, who also donated the paper making frames."
It was a learning experience of a different kind for two Make a Difference (MAD) students, Nolly Moema from Pretoria and Thatum du Plessis from Johannesburg, who attended the training course as volunteers.
"CET and MAD have formed firm partnerships throughout the years and it was a pleasure to host the two promising and successful students in the KPNR during the training. Children's Eco Training would like to wish all the CET friends a happy and blessed Christmas and a fruitful and successful 2010.