Veld School: “Breathing in nature, to live it” 

Veld School: “Breathing in nature, to live it” 

Our Veld School is a project close to our hearts. Launched in 2022 with support from the National Lotteries Commission and ENGIE (formerly known as BTE Renewables), the programme invites tomorrow’s botanists, scientists and conservationists into the field to teach them about our natural environment. 

And we’re proud to see how far we’ve come over the last year!  

Above: Students visiting the Haarwegskloof Renosterveld Reserve. Photo by Tevin Adams

From March 2023 to February 2024, we hosted 219 learners from 11 different schools at the Haarwegskloof Renosterveld Reserve, to take part in our out-of-classroom learning experience. 

Meet the educator 

Environmental educator, Gretha Engelbrecht has years of experience in the field, with an added passion for nature. Gretha is adept at creating age-appropriate nature lessons for each Veld School group – from the children, to the teachers! 

She says, “When it comes to environmental education, kids have to understand what the environment means to them – not just what they can mean or do for it.” 

Above: Gretha Engelbrecht and students. Photo by Tevin Adams

And surrounded by Haarwegskloof’s pristine renosterveld, Gretha’s teachings really come to life. 

“We don’t follow a strict checklist. We rather try to help the kids breathe it in while they’re in nature, to live it,” she says. “And they are amazing. As soon as they realise how wonderful the environment is, they really absorb it. They open up and start telling stories about their own experiences in nature.” 

After a day of hands-on learning and exploration, we always make sure to get feedback from those whose opinions means the most: our young eco-warriors. 

“When we ask the kids about what they learned, the most common answer is that all the plants and animals are important,” says Tevin Adams, our Conservation Extension Officer. “It’s clear that they leave Haarwegskloof with an understanding that everything is connected in some manner – and that we as humans should protect it to the best of our ability.” 

For Gretha, Tevin and the team, it’s not only about reaching the children: The teachers are just as important.  

For example, in the past year, the ORCT hosted a special educator training day – in an effort to support our teachers and the integral part they play in shaping the next generation.  

A group of educators from De Heide Primary School in Bredasdorp joined the Veld School team at Haarwegskloof to engage in a think tank. They discussed ideas on how the ORCT can strengthen its partnerships with local schools, help revive environmental education at school and offer support to science educators. 

Says Gretha, “The teachers that come along are just as enthusiastic as the kids!”

We hope to reach even more kids and teachers through the Veld School over the next few months! 

We’re incredibly grateful to ENGIE for their support of this important programme, as well as to the National Lotteries Commission of SA for their support in the past.