Teacher training enhances conservation education outreach

April 4, 2016

Teacher training enhances conservation education outreach

Teachers being trainedA grant from the U.S. Embassy in Rwanda has enabled the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund to expand its conservation education efforts, by adding a teacher training program, starting in 2015. A teacher training workshop brought together 30 teachers from 15 schools located near the national park where the gorillas live, for presentations on biodiversity, conservation issues and activities, and mountain gorilla ecology, behavior and conservation. The teachers were also introduced to the curricula already in use by Fossey Fund staff for conservation courses provided to grades three and five.

"The training of teachers is an important activity, which complements the conservation education activities that the Fossey Fund has been doing for nearly 10 years around the Volcanoes National Park,” says Felix Ndagijimana, Fossey Fund director of Rwanda programs, including our Karisoke Research Center.

The Fossey Fund’s conservation education programs are aimed at raising awareness and knowledge about the conservation of mountain gorillas and their habitat, among communities living in the vicinity of the Volcanoes National Park. These activities are designed to reach different layers of the community, such as primary school children, secondary school students, community leaders and even suspected poachers. For the past eight years, we have operated a conservation education program in primary schools (level 3 and 5), reaching about 2,800 children, and expanded this program to nine additional schools in 2015. We also worked with environmental clubs from nine secondary schools in the area.

“We are proud to continue partnering with schools in the vicinity of the park in providing knowledge about gorillas and the park, as well as skills in conservation, for the benefit of students and teachers. Schools have requested assistance in particular with regard to re-establishing nature clubs, training club members and organizing inter-club competitions,” says Ndagijimana.

Teachers visit the park too

Teachers in the parkIn addition to the new teacher-training workshops, we also organized field visits to the national park for the teachers. Together with our staff, they climbed Mount Bisoke, one of the volcanoes found within the park, which was an opportunity for them to see directly for themselves what the habitat looks like and observe the different vegetation zones. The teachers also had an opportunity to learn about the different plant species eaten by park animals, especially by gorillas, and to see measures taken by park authorities to reduce crop raiding by forest animals and other human-wildlife conflicts, including construction of a stone wall and a trench around the park.

In addition to these activities, each participating school was provided with materials to aid teachers when they are discussing biodiversity and conservation with their students. These include such things as wild animal pictures and environmental conservation games. Schools were also a given copies of the syllabi used in conservation education program by the Fossey Fund.

Plans are made for continuation of the new teacher-training activities in 2016, including additional evaluations of the effectiveness and impact of the program. Based on funding, if we are able to continue with 15 schools participating, this would increase the number of students participating to some 15,000.

We are grateful to the U.S. Embassy in Rwanda for providing funding to carry out the teacher training activities. We thank RDB for their assistance in organizing the teacher-training workshop. We also appreciate the collaboration of headmasters and teachers from all the schools that made the implementation of the different activities possible.