Animal Ambassadors Spread the Environmental Message

As educators, we often struggle to engage our audience in meaningful learning.  Environmental educators are no different.

It’s easy to engage the keen audiences, the ones that ask lots of questions and are generally eager to learn about conservation issues.  It’s the ones that are only marginally interested that take lots of effort.

Nicolette with a Squirrel Glider

Photo courtesy of Mauricio Payan Luna

I was fortunate to have Adrian and Tamara from Animals Anonymous give a presentation to my TAFE students the other day.  They brought with them their wonderful cohort of native Australian animals.  Adrian Sherriff has been using animals as a catalyst to teach people of all ages about environmental issues for years.  Nearly every person I’ve seen is fascinated by wildlife, especially when it’s something they often don’t get up close to.

One might call these animals exotic, but they aren’t.  They are exotic in that many people don’t know anything about them, yet they are native to Australia.  It always disappoints me that most Australians know more about African animals than our own.

Adrian is on a mission to change that, but he also does more.  He talks about many contemporary conservation issues, and people listen.  They are enthralled.  The wildlife are a big part of that.  I’ve seen three of his presentations now, but on the most recent occasion he brought a Rufus Bettong, Long-nosed Potoroo, Tawny Frogmouth, Green Tree Frog, lots of lizards and a Carpet Python.  I think the stars of the show, however, were the baby Carpet Pythons.  Everyone loved them.

Having native wildlife running around the classroom is a great way to engage your students in discussions about biodiversity issues – whether it be ecological adaptations, habitat loss or something in between.

Tamara from Animals Anonymous with the Carpet Python and Brayden

Photo courtesy of Chanthamany Siliya

A Bearded Dragon foot

Photo courtesy of Mutsumi Katayama

Mauricio with a juvenile Carpet Python

Photo courtesy of Nicolette Solomon

Mutsumi and a Bearded Dragon

Photo courtesy of Nicolette Solomon

Marine Leaders are Stars of the Sea

Congratulations must go the Marine Discovery Centre for winning the state round of the Schools First Awards.

The Marine Leaders project run by the Centre is a fantastic initiative engaging school students in marine and coastal conservation.  Not only do they learn about marine ecology and environmental issues, but they also actively participate in conservation programs.

The Marine Discovery Centre

Some of the aquaria (photo courtesy of the Marine Discovery Centre)

The practical nature of their learning really helps students to understand life in our oceans and why land based activities impact on the marine environment.  Too often in our community what goes on under the sea is out of sight and out of mind, but these students are starting to turn that around.

The facilities are full of excellent learning activities, but I’d have to say the aquaria with live fish are my favourites, especially the Sea Horses.

Well done to Tim Hoile and everyone that works and volunteers at the Centre.  Kudos also to the Star of the Sea School who supported the development of the Marine Discovery Centre 15 years ago.

Good luck with the national awards in November.

Tennyson Dunes Open Day

The Tennyson Dunes Group is holding their spring open day, giving tours of the wonderful Tennyson Dunes, on Sunday 16 September 2012. It’s guaranteed to be a great day out.

This is community environmental education at it’s finest. Professor Chris Daniels and Associate Professor Victor Gostin will both be there to give guided tours, each highlighting the dunes in their own special way.

Tennyson Dunes 2012 Open Day flierThe Tennyson Dunes are the most significant coastal dunes on the Adelaide Plains.  They are the largest of only three pre-European remnants and the only ones to still have the original tertiary dune system.  Threatened species of plants and animals abound and they are the only place you can see what Adelaide’s coastal dunes might have looked like in Colonel Light’s day.

Come along and see why the Tennyson Dunes Group is the winner of the 2011 Premier’s NRM Community Engagement Award.  Not only will you experience a great tour, but you’ll be able to see the environmental education initiatives of the group (including excellent interpretive signs created by the Marine Discovery Centre), support local volunteers, and most importantly, learn about Adelaide’s fantastic coastal ecology.

Why is environmental education important?

Environmental education comes in many shapes and sizes.  From vocational training for conservation professionals to community awareness campaigns, it serves to not only encourage environmental protection but also arm people with the skills and knowledge to achieve it.

TAFE Field CampIf you’ve ever been on a tour of your local council reserve, picked up a pamphlet on organic veggie gardening or watched a wildlife documentary you’ve participated in environmental education.  And that’s just as important as what goes on at the other end of the spectrum where TAFE students learn how to measure water quality or office staff participate in sustainability in the workplace.

There are many environmental threats these days such as ocean acidification, habitat destruction, over population, biodiversity loss, weed invasion, pollution, just to name a few.  However, by far the greatest threat is ignorance.  Ignorance of how our food is made, where our waste goes, why it matters and what to do about it.  Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not saying that people are generally bad.  Most of us want to do the right thing.  We just don’t know how.

As far as I can see, there are three ways to change the world and save Planet Earth:

  • money (and I don’t have much of that)
  • politics (call me a cynic but the calibre of our politicians lately leaves something to be desired) and,
  • education.

Only one of these can tackle ignorance.  Only one can bring the other two along for the ride.  Only one can encourage lasting change in the community.

Education.

In this blog series I hope to share my experiences, learn from other environmental educators and, most importantly, spark a few debates.  So, if you’ve got something to say, don’t hold back.