The Echo Environmental Education Programme has been designed to bring into everyday schooling, the core messaging around the conservation of the environment and wildlife.
In order to strike a balance between the interests of people living close to these conservation areas, the interests of business to pursue tourism operations and the protection of wildlife -a symbiotic relationship must exist. Our experience working with communities surrounding core conservation areas, is that there is very little understanding of the value of conserving the local nature and wildlife and the benefits thereof. Teaching children from a young age enables the development of positive behaviours and habits in the way individuals view and the environment. We also know that children are often the best advocates, and that they can influence their parents and siblings with the information that they learn and the passion that is born inside them through the interactive lessons and drives within the Game Reserve.
Through engagement with school children, their families and the school teaching staff:
- Increase the knowledge of environmental issues and climate change with specific focus on local concerns.
- Increase understanding of the value of the environment, and the direct benefits of protecting it.
- Instill a positive attitude towards the protection of the environment.
- Modify behaviours which have a negative impact on the environment.
- Empower communities to identify and evaluate the risk of behaviours that contribute to climate change.
Through the Echo - Environmental Education Programme, a curriculum-based teaching manual and classroom worksheets have been developed for schools in rural KwaZulu-Natal. The teaching pack is not only aligned with the Governments curriculum, but also with the local flora and fauna, so that children can really identify with the messaging and see how it fits into their everyday life.
Teachers are trained on how to weave the worksheets into their lesson plans and facilitators, specialising in Echo are placed into schools who have adopted the programme to assist with practical activities and the development and running of voluntary Eco-Clubs. The grade 6 and 7 children are then also taken to the nearby Game Reserve for an excursion with an experienced ranger who brings the lessons to life.
Back in 2019, work commenced on expanding environmental education into High Schools in South Africa. At high school the syllabus is integrated into the natural sciences curriculum. It has been now been fully developed for Grade 8, and our target is to have the Grade 9 materials and training completed to ensure continuity, as the students move through the school. Eco-Club in High schools will be a further opportunity for students who are particularly interested to engage with information and activities, run by Echo facilitators, who will also host the primary school sessions, therefore creating continuity for children graduating from feeder primary schools into the high school. To date 4 high schools in Mpumalanga have adopted the programme, with 2 facilitators recruited to support these schools. 1 secondary school in KZN is also enrolled.
2021 aimed to see the expansion of the programme into more schools, up to Grade 9, with additional materials developed for digital learning platforms. The curriculum has been adapted to include marine and wetland environmental information. The Echo programme has also expand to schools and communities surrounding the islands that Africa Foundation work with (Benguerra and Mnemba), as well as the wetland communities of KwaZulu-Natal (Nibela). Communities that are terrestrial also benefit from a wider conservation and environmental education that includes a marine component. Work on this curriculum has been completed and provides manuals from Grade 0 - 8. In 2022 the curriculum has been rolled out to schools in Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal.
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