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Using Plants to Light Sparks!

Number 23 - December 2001
Y. Wijk

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The Audrey Moriarty Southern Cape Herbarium coordinates BEEP (Botanical & Environmental Education Project) which is part funded by The Green Trust (an offshoot of WWF supported by Nedcor). The Herbarium organises a Wildflower Show in the George Museum each year in October, with the aim of encouraging people to learn about the wonderful variety of plants which occur naturally in the Southern Cape in South Africa. This show has become a highlight of the year for plant lovers of the region and every year more visitors and tourists are discovering it.

In October 2000 an entire day was devoted to schools; giving six 10 minute presentations to groups of about 25 so that each group spent an hour at the show, being exposed to a whole array of ideas rather than just wandering through haphazardly. This proved very successful with 300 children attending.

But, although BEEP has close contacts with schools in the previously disadvantaged suburbs, most of these could not attend because of the distance and unaffordable transport costs. At subsequent discussions with teachers, they suggested ‘…bring the show to our children’ and the idea of an Educational Environmental Expo for 2001, to be held in the townships, was born. The large hall at the Conville Civic Centre was identified as being ideal for the purpose as so many schools are within walking distance of it.

The main objective was to expose a maximum number of children and teachers, most of whom have had little chance to experience the exciting Southern Cape flora at first hand, to the importance of the amazing richness and complexities of the local biomes and the factors influencing its conservation. Lighting a spark in one child out of 1000 is great, but by inspiring one teacher in 100 to include plants and the environment in a meaningful way in their teaching, thousands of children can be reached and sparks lit!

The initial impact was to be ‘WOW’, with education as the result! The plan was for groups from at least five local schools to attend over two days (about 1000 children) and funding was sought and granted from The Green Trust based on these numbers. HOWEVER at the actual Expo held over three days from 9-11 May 2001, the actual statistics were 2720 pupils from 15 schools and 40 teachers! Each spent 1 hour 20 minutes in the Expo Hall. They were given ten minute presentations at each of seven displays or Biomes (coastal, forest, mountain fynbos, Little Karoo), by a total of 17 volunteer presenters, in their home language (English, Afrikaans or Xhosa) where possible or with teachers translating. They spent ten minutes at the end learning how to play the BEEP Environmental Game with dice they had made themselves from clay while they waited to come into the hall. Every pupil received a game of their own. Each teacher was able to browse through the teachers' resources display and received a worksheet to encourage follow-up activities in the classroom.

The exhibits were on a large scale as the hall covers at least 700 square metres. Four 10 metre x 2 metre dioramas of the main Biomes of the Southern Cape were painted by Herbarium volunteers and fronted by typical live plant material relevant to the biome (children were encouraged to touch and smell). A similar sized Urban diorama complete with litter, demonstrated the contrast where development has taken over completely and left not a single spot of green! There were also three very large posters each 3 metres by 2 metres which showed the water cycle, the carbon cycle, and a landscape with plants versus the devastation of one without. Five local schools erected attractive project displays, mostly around the theme of water and dangers of pollution, and the usefulness of plants to man.

Saasveld Technikon students erected and staffed a display on food chains and the interdependence of animals and plants. The many animal skeletons and live snakes drew much attention and elicited the perception held by a surprising number of pupils that ‘…if it’s a skeleton it’s dinosaur’!

The success of this first-time Environmental Expo will hopefully lead to an annual or biennial event. The Garden Route Botanical Garden Trust and the Herbarium will be seeking ongoing sponsorship, while work-shopping ideas and improvements to ensure that teachers and pupils, as well as local communities, are closely involved in planning, preparing and presenting the exhibition in future. The Herbarium Administration staff of one, the two part-time BEEP facilitators, and the huge of amount of time and effort invested so freely by the herbarium’s regular band of volunteers, made the incredibly enriching experience of 2001 possible; but it could and should become a community driven source of great pride in the future. Once again the real value of The Green Trust’s sponsorship and especially their faith in the idea, far exceeds the actual donation made.

Des Plantes Pour Allumer des Étincelles!

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Chaque année, l’Herbier Audrey Moriarty Southern Cape en Afrique du Sud organise une exposition de fleurs sauvages pour permettre aux visiteurs d’appréhender la magnifique variété de plantes qui poussent naturellement en Afrique du Sud. Les écoles des quartiers défavorisés ont cependant des difficultés pour accéder au site en raison de la distance et du prix prohibitif des transports. Pour cela, l’Exposition Education à l’Environnement a été créée.

Organisée par le BEEP (Projet d’Education Botanique et Environnementale) et coordonnée par l’Herbier, l’expo a été organisée dans un vaste hall à proximité d’un grand nombre d’écoles. Le but de l’expo était de présenter aux enseignants et aux élèves la richesse et la complexité des biomes locaux et les facteurs influençant leur conservation. Plus de 2500 élèves de 15 écoles ont pu visiter l’exposition. Chaque élève a reçu une copie du jeu conçu par le Projet d’Education Botanique et Environnementale et les professeurs recevaient eux une fiche de travail pour les encourager à poursuivre le travail en classe. Il est à souhaiter que cette exposition devienne annuelle ou bi-annuelle.

Usando Plantas Para Encender Chispas!

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Cada ano, el Audrey Moriarty Southern Cape Herbarium en Sudafrica organiza un festival de flores silvestres para animar a la gente a aprender sobre la maravillosa variedad de plantas autoctonas del sur del Cabo. Sin embargo, para los colegios de los suburbios desaventajados es dificil asistir por causa de las largas distancias y el excesivo coste del transporte. Por esta razon se creo la Expo de Educacion Medio-ambiental . Esta exposicion esta organizada por la BEEP (Botanical & Environmental Education Project: el Projecto Botanico y de Educacion Medio-Ambiental), co-ordinado por el Herbario, y se instalo en un gran salon a corta distancia a pie de un buen numero de colegios. El objeto de la Expo era el presentar a los ninos y a los profersores la importancia de la riqueza y la complejidad de los biotopos locales y los factores que influyen en su conservacion. Mas de 2500 ninos de 15 colegios asistieron. A cada estudiante se le presento un ejemplar del juego medio-ambiental del BEEP para llevarse a casa y a los profesores se le entrego una hoja de trabajo para promover actividades consecuentes en la clase. Se espera que la celebracion de esta Expo resulte en un evento annual o bienal.

 
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