In late November 1997, Ramsar's Deputy Secretary General, Bill Phillips, presented the keynote paper to the National Wetlands Policy conference in Maun, Botswana, and whilst there had the opportunity to visit two projects supported by Conservation International's Okavango Program. This report on the Environmental Education Programme was written by Peter Dow and provided to us by Dr Karen Ross, Director of the Conservation International Okavango Program (P.O. Box 448, Maun, Botswana, fax +267 661 798) and includes some of Dr. Phillips' photographs.
Conservation International, Botswana’s Letswee Centre Standard 4 Environmental Education Programme
The Letswee Centre's Environmental Education (E.E.) Programme takes 3000 Standard Four Pupils annually (age range 10-14 yrs) from their primary school to the Maun Game Park, which is located on pristine river front land. It is in this ideal setting that the students take part in various E.E. activities/lessons which are presented by Conservation International's (C.I.'s) education officers and one Department of Wildlife National Parks game scout.
Peter Dow, the author, shows Ramsar's Bill Phillips the recently-added educational murals at the Letswee Centre, Maun Game Park.
This programme currently holds E.E. activities on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday of every week. The activities start with an introduction to the Park at 1:00pm and the activities finish at 5:00- 6:00pm, depending on the individual characteristics of the student group. Each activity tends to last 30 minutes and the overall presentation lasts for about 1 hour 30 minutes. Short breaks are taken in between each activity, and at the end of the presentations a 20-minute food and drink break is taken. Many of the activities/lessons stress popular conservation messages such as:
- sustainable use of our natural resources
- prevention of pollution (water/air/soil)
- learning to appreciate the environment’s natural beauty (especially the delta)
- being aware of what you can do as an individual to improve the environment
The activities are usually presented in a game-like format or in a group competition. However, the educators do make use of traditional teaching aids, thanks to the recent addition of two lovely full sized murals (each one being 5 - 7 metres) which show delta and desert scenes. After the break, the students, their teacher and the C.I. educator(s) take a walk into the game park for the last two remaining activities, namely a nature walk & study. During the course of the walk, the educators will point out various flora & fauna such as termites and their mounds, various tree species and the numerous "smaller" animals that the children tend to overlook. Of course, the larger animals (mainly mammals) that live in the park are the main objects of interest, and the students really get excited when they are encountered during the walk. Yet even on the walks, we try our best to practise what we earlier preached and we request that the children pick up any litter that they may see in the park. Furthermore, we require them to stick to the trails when and wherever possible, so that they do not disturb the "natural" environment around them. Finally, the children and their teachers are transported back to their schools by C. I. staff. Once back at school, thanks are both given and received, small exercises are handed out and we depart with vivid memories and images of excited, smiling students and beautiful animals. Wow, do I like this job!!!
Environmental Education Coordinator