Environmental education when nurtured from an early age creates a positive attitude towards wildlife and environmental conservation than theory-based class learning. Being outdoors is more fun than being in a classroom. This is quite obvious. When the class is taken outside, understanding of concepts become easier. This has seen the rise of science centres in the metropolitan city of Nairobi to feed the need of making science concepts more interesting for school going children to understand.
Concurrently, environmental education has been present in Kenya for quite some years. Growing up in my lower primary level of education, a visit to the nearby wildlife areas was mandatory. This raised an interest in conservation from an early age. Today though, a price tag has been placed on the environment making it difficult for children to access conservation areas especially, specifically for low income earning families.
However, despite these challenges, environmental education organisations and programs in the country seek to sensitize Kenyans, especially the youth on the importance of conserving nature and the environment. The outcome, a growing interest to preserve biodiversity. When one child understands why they should protect the environment they live in, they can share the knowledge with their friends, siblings, parents and guardians. A chain is thus created for people who have an interest in conservation.
How can conservation education be more than tour excursions to conservation areas and wildlife/environment clubs in schools! More so now with challenges such as pollution, greenhouse effect, ozone depletion, population pressure and over-exploitation of natural resources. How can conservation education centres increase awareness and positive attitude to the environment providing knowledge and experience of the problems surrounding the environment thereby cultivating solutions and increased participation?
Early this month we had the inaugural Green Kids Awards which focuses on innovation and initiatives done by children below the age of 18 years.
The African Fund for Endangered Wildlife – Kenya (AFEW-(K) popularly known as the Giraffe Centre holds a national annual competition that focuses on wildlife artwork, nature photography and essay writing open to the youth between 5 years to 25 years (pre-primary level to Tertiary level of education). Every year has a different theme. The competitions feature questions that present the environment in a holistic manner. The aim is to equip the youth with the ability to think critically, analyse and come up with solutions to challenges afflicting the environment in their localities (Gathuku G. N 2013).
This year’s competition theme was OUR EARTH, OUR HOME – TIME TO ACT. The award ceremony was held on 8th June 2018. Get the full list of winners here.
Environmental competitions encourage children to present their views on how they see the environment. Art, photography and writing have been known as ways one can express themselves other than speaking. Encouraging the youth to present their ideas in a way in which they easily understand provides a platform in which conservation education centres across the country can be able to grow and create innovative ways to educate on the environment.
With urbanization on the rise, children today have less and less contact with nature. Introducing children to nature, especially from underprivileged families to conservation areas through field trips, education programs in schools and even hands own conservation agriculture in school grows an interest in conservation. Children will be less detached from nature and will learn to protect it.
With numerous conservation education programs in the country all doing similar work, even though with different goals and ideas, partnerships should be fostered. In respect to SGD goal 17 on Partnership for the Goals, as we strive to find solutions to climate change (SDG Goal 13), nurture life on land (SDG Goal 15) and life below water (SDG Goal 14) and still provide quality education (SDG Goal 4) we learn that it is all interlinked. Nature is interlinked. All process work together to achieve a specific ecosystem service. Thus, as human beings who are part of nature, working together to achieve goals with respect to environmental protection should go beyond the who is who in conservation.
“I would feel more optimistic about a bright future for man if he spent less time proving he can outwit nature and more time tasting her sweetness and respecting her seniority.” – E.B. White
Featured image credit © Giraffe Centre