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Volunteers' Stories



Different Learning, Great Result!

Botanical Lessons in South Africa

Our volunteers get involved in this innovative, practical and fun learning opportunity for the children … here are some tales of what they get up to!

Margaret has spent the past few years building an organic vegetable garden at the school - with the help and involvement of the children.  Each child has a colourful little container (old coca-cola bottles cut in half, which they have painted themselves) and at various times of the year they plant appropriate seeds.  They are supposed to care for their plants, which eventually are planted out into the beds.  These containers hang on special pegs on the school fence. 

Margaret’s husband was also drawn in and he created beds surrounded by wooden edging – built so that children can walk around and get close to their plants.

Margaret has groups of about 10 boys and girls at a time.  She starts with a lesson about plants and nature and then they play a few little “games” to do with plants.  For example when I was there, they stood in a circle and each held up a card showing objects like the sun, rain, a mouse, an eagle, a worm, seeds, a snake etc.  Then they have to show how these things are connected or need each other by unrolling a piece of string from one to the next – the mouse eats the seeds, the eagle eats the mouse etc.  They end up with a “web” of string criss-crossing the circle and the goal is to include every one of the objects in the web.  Hoots of laughter and much tangling of people in the string – but they do learn the lesson of the “Web of Nature”.

Then they go around and care for the plants.  With this part of the lesson there is always an amount of chaos as the boys want to race about, jumping over flowerbeds or waving watering cans - and Margaret is hard put to keep control.  The volunteers come in handy and Emma and another volunteer from Germany had fun stopping one boy from emptying his watering can over the shoes of another, and someone taking the scarecrow’s hat off.  It certainly makes a happy break from serious lessons. 

After a bit of rioting, everyone is gathered again and they learn some more about the earth and conservation.  They have a large variety of vegetables and some flowers.  The children have to learn to recognise these and get to know the names and uses of plants like herbs. It’s a lovely idea to have the children developing this life skill!


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