Wildlife Conservation Education
Blog by International Intern, Christin Winter
Wildlife Conservation Education
“In the end, we will conserve only what we love. We will love only what we understand. We will understand only what we are taught.” Baba Dioum
The importance of education is known worldwide. However some parts of education subjects are contradictory to many traditions and beliefs in several areas of the planet. There is an ongoing effort to transfer western education standards to the rural places of the world including Kenya where thousands of years of tradition and culture give way to modern development. Taking part in the world’s education system is critical for future careers but the risk to loose indigenous knowledge that has been passed on from generation to generation is very high. And it is already happening.
Development can’t and should not be stopped. However, a compromise is needed. Elders in Kenya used to know how to live in harmony with their environment and how to treat with respect what nature gave them. Indigenous knowledge and beliefs were the key to a peaceful coexistence between wildlife and humans for centuries. Maybe all the young generation needs is an inspiration to combine modern knowledge with the roots of their culture that secured the survival of mankind for all those years. But as with everything in life you need to start small.
I have spend 4 months with the pupils of grade 8 of the Kileva Eastfield Primary School in Sagalla, our neighbours at the Elephants and Bees Research Center, sharing knowledge about wildlife and giving lessons about the importance of the environment and its conservation. More than once I discovered that disrespect towards the environment was simply due to ignorance. Once the pupils understood they were able to appreciate even the smallest of nature’s miracles. We had lessons covering the importance of birds, predators, bees, elephants, termites, trees, spiders, snake bite 1st aid, interspecific communication and to celebrate our learning time together everybody took part in an educational Bush Walk.
The lessons portrayed the importance and beauty of each of the discussed animals. With every subject it was once again made obvious how every creature has its place in the big cycle of life. We focussed on inspiring facts and highlighted why we humans can be thankful for the animals’ role in the ecosystem, that is benefitting us more than we know. The children have always been very cooperative and interested, making each lesson a lot of fun and also a learning experience for myself. The pupils have been especially keen to learn about the small “scary” members of the animal kingdom just like snakes, spiders and scorpions and have been positively surprised about how beneficial they actually are for our environment. A practical lesson about Snake Bite 1st Aid turned out to be very helpful for everybody including the teacher to understand and recognize the symptoms of the different snake venoms and how to treat a bite efficiently and safely without running the risk of increasing the effects of the venom.
Just after Easter I took the kids out on a Bush Walk. Everybody was very excited to be active outside in the nature. The pupils were given a quiz to be filled out during the walk. The selected questions have been a collection of previous lessons and new facts learnt on the walk. Everyone had a great time, enjoyed the walking and the pupils successfully filled out the quiz papers.
Did all those lessons make a difference?
More powerful than any questionnaire are always actions that show an actual change in the attitude. And this is what happened: From being scared and wanting to kill small scary animals just like spiders and scorpions, the pupils caught a big Baboon Spider as well as a Scorpion that they found in their classroom and brought it to the Elephants and Bees’ camp to show us full of pride what they found. Curious pupils now gathered around the big hairy spider and the sleeping scorpion on a piece of paper and with shiny eyes asked questions about these scary looking but fascinating creatures. Together we took the animals far away from camp to find it a new safe home in the bushes. It is amazing to see what potential regular conservation education has to people. Sometimes you just need to open a door they did not even know existed and to actually go through is their choice. In this case at least some pupils did go through and have opened their eyes to the beauty of nature and the urge to preserve their own heritage.