A busy year for the Veld School: Experiencing nature on our doorstep

A busy year for the Veld School: Experiencing nature on our doorstep

One year after the launch of the Veld School, and the Overberg Renosterveld Conservation Trust (ORCT) has touched the lives of 370 learners in the Overberg, showing them the importance of protecting our precious renosterveld.

The Veld School is the ORCT’s environmental education programme. Its inception year was funded by the National Lotteries Commission of South Africa (NLCSA). Since June 2022, we’ve invited both rural schools and schools from larger towns such as Bredasdorp to the Haarwegskloof Renosterveld Reserve. Here our contracted environmental education teacher, Gretha Engelbrecht, with support from the ORCT’s intern, Nande Notyalwa, provided age-appropriate nature lessons to children.

According to Nande, “The children have learned and enjoyed lessons about nature essentially found on their doorstep. We focused on marginalised farm schools that would otherwise not have the resources to come and explore, and to also encourage them to become environmentally aware citizens.”

Getting renosterveld into the curriculum

Six farm schools travelled to Haarwegskloof including Ouplaas Primary, Uitvlught Primary and Klipdale Primary. Bigger schools such as Bredasdorp High School and De Heide Primary School also visited. And ORCT’s Director Odette Curtis-Scott and Conservation Manager Grant Forbes joined the Rûens College children on World Rhino Day, to introduce them to ‘rhino-veld’ (or renosterveld).

The children from the farm schools enjoyed two meals, drinks, and were gifted with a notebook, pencil and a badge stating ‘Renosterveld Warrior’.

We didn’t just reach children through the Veld School: A teacher workshop was also held. The De Heide Primary School teachers joined us for a brainstorming session on how we can incorporate renosterveld into the school curriculum. We also looked at how to revive environmental education in general in school, given the move away from many of these important lessons.

Educating about owls

Through the funding support, we’ve also managed to add new resources to our Learning Centre on Haarwegskloof. A series of pocket field guides will be used for future visits, as well as gifting to visiting schools. We’ve also purchased a mounted owl and contracted a taxidermist to mount a Black Harrier and a Mousebird, both found dead in separate incidents. Owls in particular are important to add to our environmental programme, given some false superstitions that lead to persecution of the birds.

According to Gretha, “All children need engagement with nature. Environmental education is not just a trip in the veld, it is a combination of understanding their backgrounds, social status, vulnerabilities and then being treated with utmost respect and care.”

Nande said, “We have already seen the impact of the Veld School, with learners stating that they had been exposed to more than they could imagine. One learner from De Heide Primary School said that she wanted to come every year.”

The learners share their experience of the Veld School:

  • Adri from Agulhas School of Skills: “I learnt how to treat wild animals and we learnt about their home.”
  • Tamzin from Bredasdorp High School: “ I really enjoyed the renosterveld. It has been such a wonderful learning experience”
  • Anina from Bredasdorp High School: “I learnt about group work and to make right decisions (regarding nature).”
  • Charma from De Heide Primary School: “I enjoyed the day because of the bread and milk we ate. I also love it because the two aunties (teachers) explained a lot about animals and all other things.”

Odette added, “This programme has been so vital, as we work to protect our natural world. If we’re to succeed, we need young people who understand that we cannot survive without nature; that ecosystems are the basis of life.

We’re incredibly grateful to the National Lotteries Commission of SA for their support of this important programme. We are also thrilled to announce that the programme will continue with support from BTE renewables, so we look forward to welcoming many more school learners to our reserve and learning space.”

The Veld School

Other schools that are interested in making use of The Veld School and the facilities at our Haarwegskloof Renosterveld Reserve can contact the ORCT for more. Email: info@overbergrenosterveld.org.za
or phone: 083 551 3341