Exciting plans are underway for the development of a new education centre at the North Luangwa Conservation Programme. The centre will be used as part of the programme’s environmental education programme, Lolesha Luangwa, which uses the black rhino as the focal species for engaging and educating school children how to conserve wildlife and the environment for the long-term benefit of their communities.
As Lolesha Luangwa developed, it became clear that children in the many schools surrounding the Park had rarely seen wildlife and had never seen a rhino (many believing them to be the size of a pig). Giving these children the opportunity to visit the Park to see the wildlife heritage of their area and take part in various activities, presentations and game drives held within its boundaries would further tie the local community to the conservation work in action. A key part of these Park visits is the building of an education centre in the Park, to act as the hub for visits by school children, where they can take part in lessons, watch videos and take part in practical exercises. The education centre will also become a space available for various other community activities (such as teacher-training courses) and an area where tourists can stop off and learn more about black rhino conservation in the region and the community engagement work being done there.
It was decided that the former researcher’s office / laboratory would be converted into the education centre to minimise costs. Work has begun on refurbishing the building. Immediately proximate to this education centre will be new girls’ and boys’ dormitories and ablution blocks and a kitchen and mess area, as well as overnight accommodation for the Schools and Curriculum Officers. These facilities will mean visiting school groups can be completely self-contained in the area.
We are currently working with staff at the Zoological Society of London and Save the Rhino Patron Ms Alex Rhind, an independent designer who has worked with Save the Rhino for many years and is offering her design services for the education centre on a pro bono basis.
The education centre will be a bright, lively and engaging space in which the Schools Officer can deliver learning activities, which link to and tie in with the wider Lolesha Luangwa curriculum being taught in the 21 participating schools throughout the year.
Current plans are to split the design of the room into zones, representing e.g. a village, forests, rivers, and animals, thus reflecting the structure of the Lolesha Luangwa curriculum and the chapters of the students’ Activity Books. Chalkboards and laminated information posters will adorn the walls for teaching and information use. Display tables will be filled with artefacts such as feathers, bones, dung, birds’ nests and footprint plaster casts to give visitors a hands-on and learning experience, as well as providing resources that require little or no English to be understood. We also want to have a life-size rhino cut-out, perhaps on the outside of the building for group photos.
The new education centre is planned to be ready later this year – we are looking forward to sharing photos and further updates with our supporters!