The Hands on Environmental Project (HOEP) of the Primary Science Programme (PSP) participated in the Cape Floral Kingdom Expo held in Bredasdorp in September 2015 by playing the Biodiversity Game at their school grounds. Elim Primer, Wagenkrantz Primer and Struisbaai Primer were the three schools that I visited. The idea was to highlight to them the diversity and uniqueness of the plants and animals in the area and how human activities are threatening them. We stressed to them that people from all over the world come to show to see the amazing plant species yet sadly most of the children were not even sure of the difference between an indigenous and an alien species.
Looking at small animals under the microscope
The microscope was the highlight of the morning where children could see the magnified image on the screen. At the end of the lesson we looked at the animals that they had caught. Hairy spiders, wiggly legs of the millipede and the mean biting mouth parts of a predatory beetle were rather frightening when made so big on the screen.
Playing the biodiversity game and learning about habitat loss
The thrust of the lesson was understanding that all animals and plants live in a habitat. Human activities, such as farming, development, alien plants and fires destroy these habitats. Learners experienced what it feels like to lose your habitat by playing the biodiversity musical chairs game. Each child was an animal with a square of cloth representing their habitat.
As the game proceeded, more and more habitats were removed as the farmers ploughed up land, the developers built houses and roads, alien plants grew over the land and fires raged. Luckily for the animals at the end, there are people who run government or private nature reserves, or who choose to grow plants around their houses and who value our local plants species. The throw of a dice determined if learners could re-join the game and survive. The message, of course, is notice plants and animals, don’t destroy them unnecessarily and put back local species if you can.
Finding habitats on the school grounds where small animals live
The best part of the lesson was looking for animals on their school grounds and catching them. There was no problem finding animal – under rocks and logs, in the soil, in the grass, on the leaves and flowers.
Each learner spent time drawing the animals that they had found and writing about the habitat they lived in. At the end of the lesson, the animals were returned outside.
My colleague Sandra Roussea captured everything that we learnt doing shared writing with the whole class. Next time I visit the Overberg, I know my Afrikaans will be much better. Thanks Sandra for making the lesson flow.
The most exciting part of the outing for me was working on the grounds of Wagenhuiskrantz Primer. There is an outcrop of limestone covered in spring flowers. The children found a tortoise happily munching his mid morning meal but even more exciting was to find a plant species that I had never seen before. The plant is the wild Rosemary, Eriocephalus and it usually has flowers with white petals. This species has pink petals!!
This school has a mini-botanical garden on their school property and they are not even aware of what they have! I encouraged the principal and the teacher I worked with to find a way to use this incredible resource and connect to other South Africans who are valuing our incredible biodiversity.