McGregor Waldorf School Grade 9s clean up the Krans

| October 29, 2013 | 0 Comments

By Herbert Leigh Steyn

Our South African Constitution links environmental issues to values such as human rights and social justice. In recognising the right to an environment that promotes a citizen’s good health and wellbeing, the Constitution supports a national commitment to responsible environmental management.

To realise this, environmental education is essential. Environmental learning does not only include learning about endangered plant species, wild animals and recycling, since the environment also includes the whole context of life itself, combining social, physical, emotional, cognitive and motor dimensions. Environmental learning is therefore closely linked to human rights, social justice and inclusivity in the national Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statements (CAPS) (grades R to 9), and environmental learning should therefore influence what is taught and how it is taught.

Creative teachers everywhere can devise such scenarios To illustrate the link between social justice, an environment that is healthy, human rights and inclusivity, let us consider the following scenario, which any teacher could use: Kwalene is a fictitious settlement in KwaZulu-Natal, where residents depend on a nearby river for water. Pit latrines provide inadequate sanitation, resulting in the pollution of the river with human waste (an unhealthy environment). A neighbouring sugar cane farm, however, enjoys the luxury of irrigation, made possible by a government subsidy granted by the apartheid government (a social injustice), creating inequity due to the fact that farm workers in Kwalene were originally denied the provision of water.

In an effort to provide these residents with basic needs (human rights), the present government contracts a private company to provide taps and toilets in Kwalene. This contracted company then sells services at a price that remains unaffordable (social injustice). Residents are then compelled to utilise the river water, and many residents fall ill due to it being contaminated (unhealthy environment). These are the sorts of scenarios we might ask our students to engage with at the McGregor Waldorf School, before solidifying the concepts through practical action.

Cross-curricular learning in action On 26 July 2013, for example, our Grade 9 students – armed with large plastic refuse bags supplied by the McGregor Municipality, a map of the McGregor Krans Nature Reserve, a brochure supplied by McGregor Tourism and a worksheet designed by Maraja Burger, our life orientation teacher – spent three hours both cleaning the Krans and completing practical project work. The environment educational processes to which we are committed involve education in the environment; education about the environment and education for a better environment, to the benefit of all people (inclusivity).

To encourage active learning in, about and for the environment, we made it possible for our students to tune in to an issue and take action in their local community for improvement. Additional highlights of the Krans excursion included finding quartz crystals embedded in ancient rocks; porcupine quills; exploring caves on the side of the hill; and the siting of a grysbok, a dassie, leopard prints and majestic circling buzzards searching for their prey. Nature herself proved to be a truly enlightening teacher! 

Herbert Leigh Steyn teaches English at the McGregor Waldorf School in McGregor in the Western Cape. Source: 1. NEEP-GET is the National Environmental Education Project of the national Department of Education and works to support teachers to implement environmental education within South African schools, and particularly within the new South African curriculum.

See, for example, http://curriculum.wcape.school.za/curr_dev/neep/index.htm.

Category: Summer 2013

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