The following week I meet Sylvester, who has finished his exams and is now back at work. We catch up as soon as possible and discuss how things are going generally, before focusing in on the schools’ park visits that he has been running for the first time this year. I am eager to know how they have been going and what he thinks of the new ideas that Maddy has suggested. Sylvester is keen to try them out, so we decide to speak to Maddy in the afternoon to work out how to fit them in to the schedule, as the next Park Visit is tomorrow and we need to have a plan!
By the end of the afternoon we have come up with a good schedule for the newly revised park visits, which includes Maddy and I running one or two activities. Maddy will deliver the new, more student-led activities that she has developed about the rhinos in the park, and I will run a game to demonstrate how animals and plants in an ecosystem all depend upon one another.
The next morning Sylvester gets up early to go out and pick up the children and teachers from their schools in the huge yellow truck that is used for the park visits. There are twenty students taking part from two schools, and each group of ten students has a teacher accompanying them. While Sylvester makes his way out to the schools, which are a good 3-4 hours’ drive away, Claire and I meet up to discuss the monitoring and evaluation of Lolesha Luangwa, and talk through all the methods we want to use this year and next, in order to find out how well the education programme is working.
By the afternoon, Sylvester and the students have made it back to Marula Puku, so I climb up into the truck and find a seat in amongst the children before we head out on the afternoon game drive to try and spot some animals.
I’m really pleased to notice straight away that the children are using the spotter sheet I helped to put together, to look out for animals as we drive out into the bush. In fact, I notice that they have already seen some animals on their journey here, which is great, but I am hoping that they will notice the difference between the number of different animals they spot outside the park and inside the park, as we want them to think about the reason for this later.
Unfortunately we don’t see a rhino on our drive, but we do see all sorts of animals that the children and teachers have never seen before, and everyone is really excited. In fact one of the teachers says to me that he hadn’t realised how big a zebra was until now, as he had only seen pictures and thought they were much smaller! Being there first hand to see the reactions of the students and teachers is really valuable as it reinforces to me just how important these park visits are.
About half way around we stop at a safe point and the children get out to stretch their legs and take in the views. We are standing on the river bank and the sun is beginning to set, so it’s a beautiful scene and we take the opportunity to get some photos of the group.
Eventually we pull up into the Bachelor Camp area at Marula Puku, where the students will be staying for the next two nights. After a tasty meal of nshima with goat stew, Maddy leads some icebreaker activities with the children, which are a great opportunity for the children to get to know one another and start to think about some of the things they are going to learn about over the next few days.
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