Biodiversity is more than just the animals and plants around us : it is also the place where all organisms, including humans, live and the diversity within each species. The Gr 7 classes at Swellendam Primer explored their understanding of biodiversity playing a few thought-provoking games and looking for animals in their beautiful school grounds. This lesson is part of the Primary Science Programme (PSP) Hands-on-environment-Programme (HOEP) in the Overberg, presented by Sandra Rousseau and Wendy Hitchcock.
In order to survive, a living thing gets everything it needs from its habitat and if that is destroyed, the animals or plant will not survive or has to move somewhere else to find food and shelter. Each child as allocated a card with a South African animal on it and their task was to discuss and draw the habitat their particular animal would need and the food it would need to survive. Then we were all ready for the game of survival.
Destruction of habitat
Humans are very successful at changing the environment to create habitats to suit their own needs. They remove plants and displace animals to produce food to feed humans, houses for humans to live in, roads for humans to move around on easily and factories to make things that make human lives easier.
The kids experienced what it feels like to be displaced from their habitat playing the game. When their piece of paper representing their habitat was randomly removed and they were not able to run and grab another habitat, they were out the game. If your basic needs are not met, your life processes become compromised. Surviving becomes a struggle to get those needs and hence the Darwinian term ‘survival of the fittest’. In this game, the kids who spotted an unoccupied piece of paper and could run the fastest and put their foot on it, ‘survived’ and the others ‘died’.
Sustainable living…….. humans have to reinvent the concept
Traditional humans societies used to live with close links to the land and developed intimate knowledge of animals and plants that they used to provide for their needs. They intuitively understood the term ‘sustainable living’ and would never have harvested everything available to them. They always left enough adults to survive into the next generation so that future harvests were ensured
The web of life in natural ecosytems is strong and durable because of the diversity of animals and plants.They are able to bounce back if there is a natural disaster. Human activities are an ongoing disaster that ecosystems are not able to recover from.
Modern humans are only beginning to realise the value of ecosystem services and how much it would cost to artificially provide humans with clean air and water. Healthy ecosystems do it for free and it makes more economic sense to look after biodiversity than to destroy. Modern humans are reinvent the meaning of ‘living sustainably’
Each one of us has a footprint on the earth but we can choose to live more lightly and to think before we act. We can choose to set aside reserves where local species can flourish, we can choose to recycle, we can choose to plant indigenous plants where local species can find refuge, we can choose not to use pesticides ……
What animals live on our school grounds?
Everybody was sent out side to see what animals live with them on the school grounds. The boys found a few large toads as well as some tasty morsels : crickets, plant bugs and woodlice. Some girls scooped some squiggling creatures out of a pond of water and were fascinated to find out that they were mosquito larvae. Seeing them magnified 30 times made it even more exciting.
I know this group of children made a closer connection with biodiversity today and will think a little bit more carefully.