2007 was designated the ‘International Year of the Dolphin’ by UNEP’s Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) and GVI Kenya spent the year working closely with Mkwiro Primary School on education and activities that supported awareness of dolphin conservation. So successful was the year, which included the introduction of the dolphin-watching code of conduct by Kenya Wildlife Service, that CMS extended it in to 2008. Halfway through 2008, ‘Dolphin Clubs’ were launched in 10 local schools in an effort to ensure that the achievements of the initiative continued beyond the two years and resulted in something more long-term. The clubs were supported with a donation by CMS of 10,000 KSh to each one to ensure that awareness and conservation activities could be undertaken.
It was a fantastic idea, but sadly fell in to the trap they hoped to avoid… with no follow up or support from the 2008 stakeholders, the schools didn’t quite know what to do with their clubs. When GVI Kenya got back up and running we found the Mkwiro Dolphin Club with it’s student members at something of an impasse, and so in collaboration with the school and its teachers we have adopted Mkwiro’s Dolphin Club. The next obstacle we came across was something of a misconception amongst the student members of the club… although just primary school children they had developed an acute sense of financial awareness, more so than environmental awareness unfortunately. It seems that the children in the club thought they were entitled to a cut of the 10,000 KSh! So we decided to take it back to basics and seek out the children that want to actively participate in environmental learning and action, rather than those ‘in it for the money’. We have been hosting the dolphin club on Tuesdays afternoons, in their 3.10 to 4.10 clubs and societies schedule, aiming to work our way through all of the students from standard 8 to 4, giving them a taste of what the club is about, before opening up ‘full-time membership’ to the wannabe dolphin eco-warriors!
Having worked our way through standards 8, 7 and 6 with treasure hunts at our land-based dolphin research site and turtle lessons in the school, this week we took on standard 5 for an hour, with an ambitious concept – water cycles, mangroves, deforestation and the impact of increased sedimentation on near-shore coral reefs and the animals that depend on them, such as fish and in our specific case the humpback dolphins that favour the reefs fringing Shimoni’s coastal forest as a feeding ground.
It sounds like a lot of information eh? Well, we started with a warmer game, provisionally called ‘monkey’ and a bit like musical chairs… the children race to ‘climb in to a tree’ (a sack on the ground!) and whoever can’t find space is out. Each round, a tree is ‘cut down’ until at the end we were left with just two ‘monkeys’ remaining – a simple but effective introduction to deforestation we thought! The kids loved it, shoving each other out of the ‘trees’ to stay in the game. Then they rotated around three educational activities – a water cycle jigsaw that they had to arrange in order; a ‘true or false’ mangrove facts game that got them running from true to false depending on whether they believed our ‘facts’; and a simple science experiment pouring ‘rain’ on to bowls of ‘forested’ and ‘deforested’ earth to watch the difference in the water quality running down the ‘rivers’ and in to the ‘sea’.
The session ended with our water cycle obstacle course, as teams ran relays with cups of water, zig-zagging along our winding ‘river’, ducking underneath our ‘ocean waves’ and jumping from ‘cloud to cloud’ to fill up a jug at the end. As we predicted it soon descended in to mayhem but it was hilarious to watch for both us and the children. Another successful introduction to dolphin club, or as the Tuesday afternoon chant goes… “dol-fin ki-la-bu, dol-fin ki-la-bu…”