Is This the Future of Environmental Education?

| 3 November 2014

“I have never been on a horse before.” Those were the words of 10-year-old Martin Mathuli from Mpumalanga who attends the new bizhub Conservation Academy located at Good Work Foundation’s Hazyview Digital Learning Centre (HDLC).

The bizhub Conservation Academy recently took 105 grade four learners to Horse Whispers in Hazyview where the young learners had the opportunity to not only ride horses, but also learn more about these animals from Marina Visser, a woman passionate about connecting young people to animals and nature.

“While our focus is ‘digital’, it is important for us to ensure that our students connect with nature,” said Byron Ross, coordinator of environmental education and conservation at HDLC.

“Moving into an online world should not mean forgetting about our connection with the outdoors and in Mpumalanga, with so much natural wildlife on our doorstep, we need to harness a respect for nature.”

Byron - a well-known South African Field Guide – took the learners on a nature walk that included collecting plants, tracking animals, and hugging trees. The one-hour introductory walk also encouraged learners to consciously immerse themsleves in their natural surroundings and listen to the sounds, an activity that was a first for the majority of the group.

During the tracking lesson, Byron used an interactive app to help engage the learners and link the activity back to some of the theoretical work that had been covered in the Conservation Academy in recent weeks.

Conservation should and must be exciting. Riding horses is exciting. Tracking wildlife is exciting, and so is learning on an iPad while sitting next to a stream in a nature reserve. Even more exciting is when 10 year-olds get to fly drones. But for that you’ll have to wait for our next story.

By the way, young Martin has since decided that “flower” is his favourite english word. 

About Good Work Foundation

Good Work Foundation (GWF) has been working with grassroots education in Africa since 2003. The mission of GWF is to uplift rural communities through access to world-class education and, to this end, GWF was one of the first organisations in Africa to bring tablet computing and learning apps to rural learners, and now, they are the only sub-Saharan organisation working with Stanford University on cloud-based learning.

GWF currently operates four digital learning centres where each centre is made up of academies that deliver basic literacy and career training to school-aged and adult learners. Open Learning Academies focus on English literacy, math’s literacy, digital literacy, conservation literacy and life skills for school-aged learners. Career-Training Academies provide vocational skills courses and digital literacy tuition to adult learners. In all areas, and collaborating with strategic partners, GWF focuses on delivering digital curriculums, state-of-the-art facilities and expert tuition.