For most schoolchildren a visit to a national park is an unforgettable day, but more than this, it is also a crucial learning experience.
Many of the children that are brought into our parks have been told or taught very little about South Africa’s unique flora and fauna and the necessity of environmental protection and eco-friendly behaviour.
That is why Environment Education is one of the priorities of the People and Conservation division, with some extra attention going to rural and poorer communities. Poverty and inequality contributes substantially to environmental degradation. SANParks is privileged to be able to welcome South Africans from all different backgrounds and talk passionately about the conservation mission of the national parks.
Many parks offer day programs for primary and secondary schools, for free or for a small fee to cover the costs. The variety of lessons offered throughout the country is wide - water use, job opportunities, the Big 5 - but the main message about the importance of biodiversity is the core of all programs.
Many parks take in children for multiple days and combine education with outdoor activities like hiking, abseiling and horse riding. Other parks occasionally organize these kind of camps often through the Kids in Parks programme.
But that is not all. People and Conservation officers organize special programmes on calendar days like Arbour Day or Wetlands Day todrive home messages about conserving the environment.
There are puppet shows, after school learning activities, interpretive walks, the Morula Kids competition and adventure activities that children can participate in, for example in Garden Route National Park and Table Mountain National Park organize special training for teachers in Environmental Education.
Many of the displays that are found in the parks are also created by People and Conservation. An impressive and renowned example is the Elephant Hall in Kruger's Letaba camp. There visitors can gaze at the tusks of the Magnificent Seven or find information on the current biggest tuskers before going out to find them in the park!
For more information – send an e-mail to Maria Moate, Manager: Environmental Education