The Princess Vlei is a recreational facility that has been used by the Grassy Park and Retreat residents for decades, but the Princess Vlei Forum urges schools to make use of it also as an educational tool for the children.With the vlei coming under threat of destruction about seven years ago, the forum is still campaigning to showcase the importance of the water body through educational programmes, among others.“At the moment we do have a number of schools involved. We focus on the local schools: Lotus High School, Steenberg High School, Levana Primary School, Harmony Primary School,” says Bridget Pitt, secretary of the forum.“But there are a lot of schools who aren’t involved, and we’d like to get them involved,” she adds.According to Pitt, the forum combines environmental awareness with art activities to create fun and informative lessons for the youth. They do this by teaming up with the Peter Clark Art Centre in Claremont and the Jungle Theatre Company in Muizenberg, to name a few.The outcome of these efforts are better informed children who have a personal investment in nature and undoing the damage that has already been done by land and air pollution. “We want to develop an appreciation of the nature that is there and build a personal connection. We emphasise kids having a good time there – and hopefully that will extend to any nature site. It’s getting children to understand that if we want to save ourselves we have to save nature,” Pitt explains.In order for the children to take a personal interest in the vlei, during programmes with the school the workshop facilitators will allow the children monitor the plants, take note of the insects and wildlife that interact with the plants and allow them to expand on their observations and learnings each time they return.In the spirit of creating awareness of the biodiversity, the forum hosts the Flight of Dreams Parade each year. Held at the end of last month, learners used their talents to create nature guardians – artworks to take ownership of the area and celebrate the wildlife.Julius Bolligelo, a 12-year-old learner from Harmony Primary School, is responsible for the eco-friendly eland that was installed during the parade. According to him it symbolises balance in nature and pays respects to the animals who lost their homes to human development.“The goal is to create a real relationship between the children and the Princess Vlei,” says Pitt. The forum works on the principles of restoration, education, cultural heritage and hopes to see the children grow to embrace nature and the historical significance of the vlei.Currently, the forum is in talks of beginning the process to have the water body declared a heritage site based on its rich history – the very reasons why the community fought to save it from becoming a mall in 2012.V To get your school involved in the activities at the Princess Vlei, call 082 462 1308, visit www.princessvlei.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org.