At the heart of the Lapalala Wilderness School offering is our three- to five-day centre-based Environmental Education (EE) Programme. This formal learning experience caters for children and young adults from all cultural and economic backgrounds and is attended by an average of 3 000 learners per year, most of whom are introduced to the programme by our local partner communities.
The EE programme offers a great variety of activities customised to the grade and age of the learners in each group. All the activities have an educational foundation and support the relevant school curricula. Led by experienced staff who believe in the life-changing potential of a true nature experience, the programme delivers on its objectives in a way that makes learning interesting, exciting, and fun.
Our Youth Development Programme has been designed to identify and mentor young, underprivileged or marginalised individuals with a desire to pursue a career in conservation and/or EE. The programme focuses particularly on black children who live in rural areas in close proximity to the school, and who have previously participated in one of our centre-based EE programmes.
Since its inception, a number of prospective South African conservation champions have been afforded the opportunity of a lifetime to gain conservation knowledge and skills to equip them to play a meaningful role in preserving and nurturing South Africa’s rich biodiversity.
As part of our commitment to raising awareness of the benefits of environmental sustainability amongst our surrounding rural communities, Lapalala Wilderness School offers various free programmes for groups of learners from community schools. Through the generosity of various donors all accommodation, food, transport and learning activities are provided free of charge to learners from these schools. Outreach Programme activities typically focus on the further development of Sustainable Schools in the area.
Sustainable School Programme A strategic decision was taken to leave the Eco-Schools programme and join the newly launched Sustainable Schools Programme, offered by Nature Connect . This is a holistic approach to education for sustainable development and aims to cultivate sustainable development practices in a way that is locally relevant for South African schools. This programme combines instruction through an online platform with face-to-face engagements and repeats environmental education sessions to provide ongoing support to participants. The LWS is supporting 39 schools, 370 educators and approximately 10,874 learners through this programme.
While the biodiversity work we do with young people in our region is having a significant positive impact on schools and communities, we recognise that to entrench awareness and commitment to environmental conservation, we have to partner with educators. To this end, since 2009 Lapalala Wilderness School runs numerous three-day educator workshops to promote the importance of integrating environmental learning into the school curriculum.
The programme focuses on guiding and helping educators from disadvantaged schools in both the rural and urban environments of Limpopo and Gauteng on the ways in which to bring EE into their classrooms in an engaging and effective way. Each workshop caters for between 20 and 30 educators, and a number of representatives from the Departments of Education in Gauteng and Limpopo have also attended.
Our effort in this regard supports the CAPS+ Approach curriculum by demonstrating to educators that many environmental topics can be woven into a variety of subjects and lend themselves to furthering education for sustainable development.
With support from the Lapalala Wilderness Reserve, we continue to play an important role in the provision of practical components of the tertiary groups who are in the field of conservation. They involve both Diplomas and Certificates in Nature Conservation from Centurion Academy, and BSc (Honours) from UNISA.
As in previous years, we outsourced experts to come and assist in lecturing to these groups, particularly top academics such as Professor Lyn Wadley, Dr Philip Calcott, Dr Sandie Sowler, Richard Wadley and Mark Thompson, ably assisted from time to time by our Patron Clive Walker.
Since 2010, Lapalala Wilderness School has offered a range of three-month and one-year internships for university students that want to enhance their education and gain practical experience in a true wilderness environment. Interns are exposed to all aspects of management of both the school anf the Lapalala Wilderness reserve.
The programme also allows for Masters and PhD candidates to link to the Lapalala Wilderness School to better develop their field-based skills, deepen their interest in conservation, improve their understanding of research protocols and lay a solid foundation for continued studies in the fields of science and biodiversity.
Through our partnership with CATHSSETA (Culture, Art, Tourism, Hospitality, Sports Sector Education and Training Authority) we enjoy significant support in our efforts to develop the next generation of conservationists. This also enables us to support young students and graduates in terms of building the career paths they wish to follow by providing them with sound vocational guidance.