Environmental education is one of Whale Coast Conservation’s key objectives. To meet this objective, WCC devotes much time and energy to providing environmental information to young people through school expos and excursions. But environmental information is not the same as environmental education. What is the difference?

Environmental information is what we get in school, glean from the internet and at WCC talks and expos. 

Environmental education creates opportunities for children to physically explore nature, which raises awareness of, and sensitivity to the environment. With awareness and information comes knowledge and understanding of nature. Understanding changes attitudes and increases concerns about caring for the environment.

Environmental education does not advocate a particular viewpoint or course of action. Rather, environmental education teaches people how to consider various sides of an issue through critical thinking and to take action accordingly.

The real education happens through immersion in nature. Through experiences in wild places, young people become aware of their environment, and start to form a deep connectedness with, and love of, nature. 

This kind of exposure to nature is not available to a large proportion of our Overstrand children who live in townships. We are very fortunate to have nature right on our doorstep – both mountain fynbos and the sea – but the youngsters need to be transported and these treasures have to be pointed out and explained to them.  Whale Coast Conservation takes as many groups of young people as possible on overnight camps for total immersion in nature. Alas, limited funding restricts the number of camps. 

We would love to do so much more with the involvement of the Overstrand community.

WHALE COAST CONSERVATION AGM

To become involved, the public is cordially invited to attend the 17th WCC Annual General Meeting on Thursday 19 September 2019 at 17:30 at the Green House (on the R43 in Vermont). 

The brief business of the meeting will be followed by a talk entitled Curator and Crusader: the life and work of Marjorie Courtenay-Latimer by Professor Mike Bruton. 

A mystery egg (is it a dodo’s?), a wandering hippo, an enigmatic human skull, a secret visit by a famous aviator, the most famous fish in the world, a museum ghost, and rugged expeditions into the remotest parts of Southern Africa… These are just some of the ingredients in the colourful life of Marjorie Courtenay-Latimer. From humble beginnings, and with little formal education, she developed from a child prodigy into a world-famous figure, whose inspiring life story is a classic example of the triumph of the human spirit over adversity. 

Marjorie and Mike were colleagues and friends. While Mike was director of the JLB Smith Institute of Ichthyology in Grahamstown, Marjorie was director of the East London Museum, where the first coelacanth to be discovered is still on display. They also share a quality that is so much more than ichthyology: Marjorie was, and Mike is, an environmental educator.

MIKE BRUTON: ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATOR

Prof Bruton has founded and developed museums (like the Knysna Angling Museum) and science centres (like the MTN Science Centres in Cape Town and Umhlanga). He was also closely involved with the vision of the Two Oceans Aquarium in Cape Town.

At the recent launch of Mike’s Biography of Marjorie Courtenay-Latimer, he was interviewed by the Two Oceans Aquarium on the educational value of an aquarium, museum or science centre. 

This was Mike’s reply:

I believe that the role of informal science education facilities, such as aquariums, science centres and museums, is more important now than ever before, for three reasons. 

Firstly, science is advancing at such a pace that it is impossible for laypeople to keep up. The role of informal science education facilities is to sift through the vast amount of information and to inform people about what is important and relevant to their lives. 

Furthermore, it is not enough to just give them information. We must contextualise this information so that it is useful to them and helps them to make wise decisions, change their mind-sets and behaviour, and become agents of change. 

Aquariums, together with science centres and museums, therefore act as a vital link between the scientific establishment and the general public.

Secondly, science is under threat, and the value of science is being questioned at all levels of society. A society that undervalues science is a society that is doomed to failure. 

Science not only offers us the opportunity to learn more about how nature works but also to address, and solve, the many problems that we, as humans, have created on the planet. Without science we cannot solve these problems. We must be strong ambassadors for science.

Thirdly, aquariums, science centres and museums offer non-scientists the opportunity to become directly involved in addressing societal problems, including the many environmental challenges that face us.

To find out more about Whale Coast Conservation, Marjorie Courtenay-Latimer and to meet Prof Mike Bruton, come to the WCC AGM on Thursday 19 September at 17:30. Entry is free.

About the Author

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Whale Coast Conservation passionately lives by its slogan “Caring for your environment”.

Its small staff and volunteers are dedicated to

  • raising community and visitor awareness of the unique, biodiverse natural resources of the Cape Whale Coast region and
  • to projects that convert awareness into practical actions that lead towards living sustainably.

WCC ensures expert representation in public participation processes that contribute to environmental and developmental policies and legislation.  We monitor regional development; and ensure compliance with legislation and guidelines.

WCC increases general public awareness of sustainability through environmental education, citizen-science research projects, community projects and campaigns.

WCC communicates with its audience through exhibitions, signage, technology demonstrations, workshops, talks, film shows, newsletters and articles.

WCC places emphasis on educating future generations through its Youth Environment Programme (YEP).  YEP is offered to 24 schools in its target area with a total of over 10,000 learners.

WCC facilitates schools’ participation in special events such as Earth Day, Walking for Water, Arbor Day and Coastal Clean-ups.

WCC facilitates educator development programmes to improve the capacity of educators to offer informed environmental content in their lessons across all learning streams.

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