Nature: A great teacher

2011-07-25 00:00

LEARNING about nature is a priority at New Hanover Preparatory. The school has chosen nature as one of its greatest teachers and establishing a wildlife garden is one way it plans to give pupils a “hands-on” experience of it.

Melanie Kriel, a committee member organising a fundraiser for the garden with “elephant whisperer” conservationist Lawrence Anthony, says her children have benefited enormously from the school’s nature emphasis.

“Many of our kids have come from farms or have a rural background and they love the fresh air and the environment,” she says.

“To come to a school where they can further their education in a way that also incorporates the conservation ideals is great for them.

“The kids who do not come from farms will also benefit enormously from this exposure. The school worked hard towards getting recognised as an eco-school and we really strive to use eco-principles in the classroom. We recycle and we have embarked on community initiatives.”

The school has become so encouraged by the children’s enthusiasm that it started a Bush Buddies club two years ago. The aim of the Club is to take the children on many field trips to expose them to the beauty and diversity of their surroundings.

Kriel says: “Our principal recognises that many children have different types of talents and one of the least-recognised talents is how children are attuned to nature. Some children are able to communicate with animals and others have an incredible ability to differentiate bet­ween different types of plants.

“These are skills just like excelling at maths or reading. Giving all children a chance to love and appreciate nature and the environment allows those who have tactile talents to excel.” Kriel says her own son, Brandon, flourished with the extra exposure to animals and plants.

The idea behind establishing the wildlife garden at the school was to plant indigenous plants that are found in the area, thereby attracting insects and small animals and creating a natural ecosystem.

Some of the children have planted seeds and others have planted tree saplings. But every plant has a specific role.

The garden will also play a role in beautifying the school grounds in a harmonious fashion.

Kriel says what has been the most satisfying experience has been the impact that the Bush Buddies Club and the enviro-friendly education has had on the parents.

She says: “Our BB club is held once a week and we focus on a subject like frogs and their role in nature. We often have a parent who volunteers to support the teacher with information or pictures. Many parents are excited about playing a role.”

Usually children look to the parents for information, but in this instance parents are enjoying learning from their children, who come home with many tips on what they have learnt at school.

Brett Sliedrecht, New Hanover Prep principal, says: “Teaching is a process of development and guidance that should cover all areas. It should guide each individual to the heights of their potential.

“Some kids are sporty, some intellectual, some artistic and others musical. We also cannot ignore those who have natural gifts in the environment. We call this ‘nature smarts’. These children can make an enormous contribution to our world.”

Sliedrecht believes that to teach the children about the dangers facing the world in the form of pollution and threats facing conservation is a necessity.

But he believes that children should not be taught that we are facing a doom-and-gloom scenario.

“I feel that we should equip kids with skills and a positive attitude to face ecological and conservation challenges. To find fulfilment by contributing to change is incredible.”


Who is the Elephant Whisperer?

LAWRENCE Anthony, the owner of Thula Thula game reserve, is a renowned conservationist. He has always been passionate about instilling a love of nature in young pupils.

He has written two best-selling books and is known for his heroic rescue mission to save animals at the Baghdad Zoo during the United States invasion of Iraq in 2003. His primary love is the African elephant, and he has been instrumental in rehabilitating and saving rogue and traumatised elephants and relocating them. His organisation — The Earth Organisation — operates in 17 countries.

Anthony will be opening New Hanover Preparatory School’s Wildlife Garden on July 29 and will be giving a talk in the evening about his experiences.

• If you would like to buy a ticket for the dinner-fundraiser on July 29, contact Melanie Ortmann at or phone 082 442 8242.

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