Can you mabe tell us more (maybe under a different heading) about this Socio ecology course e.g. what the children are taught and the main goal of the course.
Well, the course started about 6 or 7 years ago and was the brainchild of SANParks socio-ecologist Kevin Moore (he who was responsible for starting our HR Region). Kevin recognised the unassailable fact that unless we reach our children today, the chances of tomorrow's leaders knowing anything at all about pollution, species diversity, water wastage, or even dune, sandy beaches, rocky shores, saltmarsh or fynbos ecologies, a generation of non-nature-minded, materialistic young adults would be the result on the West Coast.
With this in mind, he approached a few local PD schools and offered them the opportunity to get away for 2 or 3 days at Geelbek and attend the course that he had put together for this purpose. He revamped the adjacent stables to suit accommodation for a full busload of children and a couple of their teachers, refurbished the old kitchen and created a lecture hall with full ablution facilities for both genders.
At about this time, the West Coast HR Region was started, and as we had some ex- and wanna-be teachers enrolled as members, they rapidly gravitated towards this exciting initiative and today we are helping service up to 10,000 schoolchildren from all over the country per year. This is now managed by Kevin's able replacement, Edward Adonis, also a SANParks socio-ecologist, whose passion and drive for this venture is on a par with Kevin's.
It rapidly became clear that a lecture hall was all good, but the boys and girls needed field trips too, in order that they may see and feel firsthand what had been shown or taught to them in the hall, so we started ferrying them around in the Park in whatever vehicles we could lay our hands on. This usually meant the Park's Venture and our own private vehicles. It further became clear that this could not work in the long term, as the distances were too great, and too many relay trips were needed in order to get the pupils around, hence the arrival of the first of 2 20-seater buses as described in another thread on this forum.
Feedback on these courses is overwhelmingly in favour of our efforts, and it is enlightening and gratifying to note the children's re-evaluation of their position on this planet as a result of their new-found interest in nature. Even the teachers learn a lot, and we have recently enrolled with WWF/Old Mutual's new "Out Of The Box" nature learner-assist campaign, which you might have noted was presented on 50/50 two Sundays ago. This adds yet another exciting dimension to our presentation capability.
Course material includes touchy-feely displays, posters, artifacts, slide shows, Power Point presentations and DVD/video training on subjects as varied as species diversity, inter-dependence of species, lagoon ecology, food chains, upwelling, red tides, sandy beach and rocky shore ecology, inland mobile dune ecology, pre-historic evidence, birdlife, mammals of the area, endangered species, wader and raptor migration, West Coast history, marine life, the water cycle and all sorts of interesting experiments relating to our natural world, all reduced to understandable concepts and phraseology, specially tailored to the child's enquiring mind.
Park staff and the Honorary Rangers are really chuffed when we realise the massive difference we have made in the lives of so many young people, and are constantly on the lookout for new and innovative ideas that will add even more value to our efforts.
One motto of our initiative is "We do not inherit natural wild places from our parents - we borrow them from our children."