In Kenya, conservation education is not part of any formal school curriculum. Instead, it takes place in school clubs because of the initiatives of dedicated teachers and conservation staff. However, when budgets are slashed and the economy isn’t working as it should, conservation education projects tend to be shelved.
If future generations of Kenyans are to really be empowered with hands-on education that will allow them to take care of their natural resources, then we must change how conservation education is implemented.
The Northern Kenya Conservation Clubs (NKCC) are operating in twelve schools across northern and central Laikipia; six of these are in the Kimanjo area, just 2 hours from Nanyuki town. The clubs take place after school one afternoon each week. Here, the conservation education curriculum consists of activities and lessons that involve experiential learning through games that teach concepts; students then explore the natural world around them. The goal is to teach them about the importance of conservation so that they can make informed decisions, now and in the future.
But putting this experiential learning into practice is not always easy. One key challenge that the clubs still have to address is getting teachers to teach this way, which is so different from the way they teach in school. Annual teachers’ workshops are held with the help of Mpala Research Centre and its patrons. During these teacher training sessions, teachers are helped to take up the role of students and go through experiential learning. This helps them understand what the students are learning from any of the activities and how they can lead the same activities.
Ayub Kingori has been a supervisor for the six Northern Kenya Conservation Clubs in Laikipia, as well as at Ewaso. He joins Everlyn Ndinda, who supervises the five clubs on the other side of the Ewaso Ng’iro river. Together they conduct regular visits to the surrounding conservation education clubs to assist teachers with activities, distribute supplies and generally make sure the clubs are active. Both Ayub and Everlyn are passionate about conservation and are moving the clubs forward. On a typical Saturday, Ayub takes a group of club students to the Kimanjo Resource Centre for specific activities. He may read them a conservation story from the library, show a DVD about wildlife, or play a game with the students. Some favourites include “The Web of Life”, which teaches about the interconnectedness of all living things in an ecosystem, and “More or Less”, which teaches about the effects of a growing human population on a habitat. Afterwards, as part of this conservation learning experience, Kingori takes the students for a drive around Ol Lentille Conservancy to see and learn about the wildlife.
Every year on a Saturday in July, the twelve conservation clubs come together at one school and invites families and community members to be part of a full day celebration. The students make displays and presentations about projects they have been working on and topics about which they are learning. They share what they’ve learnt with the other clubs and with the community.
In 2016, NKCC partnered with the Laikipia Rabies Vaccine Campaign (LRVC) and taught all students about rabies and the importance of vaccinating dogs and cats. They acted out what they learnt in drama presentations and then had a drawing competition to make posters about rabies. The winning posters were hung in communities around Laikipia to inform everyone about this important topic and to get their animals vaccinated. The LRVC vaccinated 4,500 dogs and cats, which not only protects pets and people, but also wildlife.
The most recent venture for NKCCs is the setting up of camera traps so that students can see what animals get up to late at night. Students from the clubs then share those photos and information with others at school.
So is this kind of learning making a difference to conservation education? At a recent teachers’ workshop, one teacher told the group that students are taking their conservation learning home; they are planting trees at home as they have been doing at school and communicating to members of the community why this is important. The teachers are seeing that experiential learning provides practical experiences for students. One club used the money they raised from harvesting honey from their beehives to buy snacks for their trip to Ol Lentille. Another club used money they earned from their shamba club to have an end of year celebration. And because the learning is fun and different, students are going home and talking to their parents about their experiences. And so yes, conservation education in Laikipia is making a difference for our youth.
Northern Kenyan Conservation Clubs are part of Wild Class and LACE, an LWF initiative that is developing a full service Conservation Education programme to support members. To find out more about these initiatives visit www.laikipia.org