What better way to celebrate world environment day than through first hand exploration of earth's treasures in the Kruger National Park (KNP)? Pupils and teachers from Mthayiza Primary from the Nsikazi circuit close to Numbi Gate joined nine other schools which were on the annual Kids in Parks programme in the KNP.
"The Kids in Parks programme aims to promote a conservation ethic in the youth by responding to environmental issues, through environmental education. This is done within the framework of outcomes-based education and the school curriculum and is supported by curriculum materials developed by Delta," says Kirsty Redman, interpretive officer, Nxanatseni region of Kruger and one of the programme coordinators.
This year 497 learners and 20 educators from 10 schools based in communities close to the Park attended, with each school staying three days and two nights in Skukuza.
The activities kicked off with a teachers' workshop facilitated by Martha van Zyl of the Mpumalanga department of education. "Educators from the selected schools were put through their paces in the new curriculum and were exposed to the type of learning that their students could expect in the programme," says Kirsty.
The programme, largely activity-based, aims to expose the learners to the Kruger National Park - an opportunity that would otherwise not be available to them.
Adopting the world environment day theme of "Many Species. One Planet. One Future" the programme focused on activities that were directly linked to plant biodiversity conservation and included a visit to the Skukuza nursery including the seed bank; a talk on the importance of indigenous flora; a tour of the wetland at the nursery; a lecture on how to plant indigenous plants at your home; a visit to the alien biota research centre; a presentation on how to identify alien biota and the dangers of alien vegetation to an ecosystem and how to remove alien biota and the removal of alien biota in your community.
'Kids in Parks' was launched in Kruger in 2007, a joint initiative between Pick 'n Pay, SANParks and the departments of education and environmental affairs. It is a fully sponsored programme. Learners and educators benefit from meals and transport provided by Pick 'n Pay for the duration and accommodation and the educational programme provided by the People and Conservation department. Each learner also receives a 'goodie bag' which can be taken home, containing a T-shirt, cap, and waterbottle.
Schools that participated this year include Mahlathi Primary (Eglington), Ndabeni Primary (Tintswalo Village), Eckson Primary (Buffelshoek), Hluvukani Primary (Xanthia), Songeni Primary (Mbumba), Phumalanga Primary (Matsulu), Letsakuthula (Matsulu), Magcekeni Primary (Mzinti), Rhandzekile Primary (Lillydale) and Mthayiza Primary (Nsikazi).