Eco-Mentor Training for Tshwaragano Primary School Teachers in Gaborone, Botswana

Training for five teachers from Tshawaragano Primary School took place in Gaborone on the 27th and 28th of February, at the beautiful Gaborone Yacht Club. After the launch of the Eco-Club in October 2018, this training was a follow up for Eco-Mentors, giving them a more in-depth look at the Eco-Club Curriculum. We began by looking at the Children in the Wilderness programme, how it’s structured and how Eco-Clubs work in schools. We then discussed how important it is that our teachers are role models for their Eco-Club children, modelling and showing them environmentally minded behaviour.

We covered as many CITW Eco-Club Book 1 lessons as we could. The first lesson was the food chains lesson. Since we had done the Web of Life lesson last year, this was a perfect way to start as a follow on from last year’s learning. I used recycled cans to build a pyramid, focusing on the three different trophic levels – producers, consumers and decomposers. Splitting the Mentors into pairs, each team was given a trophic level to focus on. They had write a different organism or animal for each can in their trophic level.  I then removed a random item from the pyramid causing the whole thing to tumble, demonstrating how each level, and each individual organism in the pyramid, is vitally important for the ecosystem and food web.

A lesson on endangered and threatened animals sparked an in-depth discussion about why animals are endangered, and a very interesting discussion on how we could possibly make a difference to the lives and habitats of certain animals.

The highlight of the day, apart from our energisers and singing, had to be the lesson entitled ‘Plants in the School Ground’. This lesson requires that pairs take turns to be blindfolded and lead around an open area to their tree, which they will then have to identify once their blindfolds have been removed. It was not only an interesting lesson for the teachers in terms of our learnings around trees, but also in social dynamics and trust. There was much giggling and laughter heard while the pairs led each other around the gardens.

We ended off the day with a lesson on animal adaptations, where teachers had to create a new creature, which has to survive in a make believe environment 300 years from now.

We opened the day by setting up two water cycle experiments, one which demonstrated how the water cycle works, and the other transpiration. We then carried on with a four corner debate. As a trainer, this was possibly one of the most interesting training sessions I’ve had doing this lesson. One of the teachers was put in the corner to ‘strongly agree’ on a statement about protecting wildlife. She openly said that she disagreed with the statement, but understood the importance of the activity and that being placed in a corner meant fighting for the opinion given to you, no matter what. By the end of the activity, her thinking had changed, and she in fact agreed with the statement. It just goes to show what a bit of teaching, learning and good old debate can do to get someone thinking critically.

The big lesson for the day was on climate change. This too, ignited a really good discussion around the topic – the causes, effects and possible solutions to the issue. We focused on practical solutions, which are feasible to the communities with which we work. I make a point of talking about how we can all make a difference to environmental issues, if we just focus on doing the best we can in our space – our classrooms, our communities, our homes.

We closed the day by looking at the results of our water cycle experiments. The teachers commented on what a wonderful way this is to teach this concept, and said that they would definitely be using these experiments not only in their Eco-Club, but during their science classes too.

On the second day of training, we were joined by two Wilderness Safaris Members Club ladies, who have shown an interest in CITW. It was wonderful to have these two ladies join in on the training. They added invaluable insights on the topics we covered, and are interested in helping out and joining in on the school’s Eco-Club programme.

It was a really productive and successful two days of training. Here’s what the teacher had to say about it:

“I have learnt that I can change life through teaching learners to love, understand and conserve their environment’ – Keoratile ‘Bobza’ Bobe

“I learnt that if one thing is destroyed in the food chain, it will affect the whole ecosystem” – Joseph Tshose

“The transpiration experiment helped me learn how to teach this concept to my children in class” – Morekolodi Dinake