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Opening more than a can of worms at Wellington

| June 17, 2015 | 0 Comments

By Heather Johnson and Mike Aubin

Wellington Preparatory School is situated on a working farm, Diemersfontein Wine and Country Estate1 in the Western Cape, which provides wonderful opportunities for the learners to experience the wonders of nature around them.

Possibly one of the greatest privileges of attending school on such a large and eco-conscious farm is experiencing the biodiversity that comes along with it. Our school has always enjoyed the company of a few non-human friends such as tortoises, frogs, squirrels, mongooses and an extensive variety of bird species. Not many children ever have to chase noisy guinea fowl away so that their teacher can continue with the maths lesson. The younger children relish their nature walks and sometimes take a picnic with them to enjoy at a nearby dam. They also participate in cross-country runs through the vineyards on the estate. Such a rustic environment does have its challenges, though, with the occasional snake slithering in and out to create a bit of mass hysteria.

Use the right bin!

The school encourages learners to care for their environment and in the foundation phase, the children learn all about recycling. On a weekly basis, the Grade 2 learners work at the recycling depot, ensuring that all items have been correctly binned. There is frequent, animated discussion about how items that have been discarded can be ‘reinvented’ and used again, and class artwork often incorporates recycled articles. The school recycling depot collects glass, paper, plastic, tins, cardboard and Tetra Paks.2We also have a separate area for e-cycling, and collect used printer ink cartridges as part of a fundraising initiative.

Ted and Spot

We have a resident pair of spotted eagle owls that return to their owl box outside the school office each year. The first year that Spot and Ted made our owl box their home, they produced one chick. We watched him grow up and eventually leave the nest. Unfortunately he was attacked one evening, possibly by a mongoose. His wing was ripped off and we contacted the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA),3 which unfortunately had to euthanise him. Last year, the pair of owls produced three chicks, and everyone in the Wellington Prep family curiously watched the growth of these chicks. We have since spotted the ‘teenagers’ in the blue gum trees around the school property, and we wait in anticipation to see what will happen this season.

Rambo on the run

The school is involved with our local SPCA and Diemersfontein in a joint project to release wildlife, such as mountain tortoises and various birds of prey, onto the property. Three types of tortoises were released in the Renosterbos region – angulates, parrot beak and leopard or mountain tortoises. They ranged from tiny one-year-olds to Rambo – estimated to be over 100 years old and weighing over 30 kg. Our learners learned that it is not good to keep tortoises as pets as they are invariably fed incorrect foods, often become victim of an attack by a dog or other family pet and can easily outlive their owners. All the released tortoises were marked with a unique number so that their movements can be tracked. Some of these tortoises have made their way across the estate and to the school. There is one regular visitor to the cricket field that has to be carefully moved to safer ground, away from the hard cricket balls.

Maths can be wriggly!

There is also a worm farm on the premises, where the Grade 2 children love to feed the worms leftover fruit and vegetable trimmings that they bring from home, and extract the worm tea, which is then sold to parents for use as fertilizer in their gardens. Caring for the worms also brings maths skills into practice. The children measure the worms, weigh their food and tap out specific quantities of worm tea to sell. They also routinely use the worm tea to fertilise the trees on the school property. Worms are also sold by the kilo to parents to start their own worm farms at home.

Have a heart

At Wellington Prep, we believe that environmental education is not simply teaching scientific facts about the environment. It involves skills, attitudes and values that mobilise our learners into making conscious lifestyle choices and actions that will ultimately benefit the world we live in. We sincerely hope that by educating our children from an early age about the benefits of looking after their environment, we will have done a little towards producing a new generation of people who do not take their surroundings for granted and who play their role in saving our planet.

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Category: Winter 2015

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