Week one of summer camp at Noloholo is off to a great start!
This is the second summer that TPW has hosted an environmental camp for local primary school children. The top 20 boys and top 20 girls from the two primary schools (5th, 6th, and 7th graders) in Loibor Siret will each spend a week here, learning about the environment. In Tanzania, the school system is very much like the British school system – in general, teachers teach straight out of the textbook and then the children memorize the material and are tested on it each year. One of the goals of the camp (and of the teacher training programs held here) is to show the children that you can learn while having fun. Neo really engages the children, encourages them to think critically, and makes sure they are having fun. Much like V8 claims to be so good you don’t know it’s healthy, Neo makes the camp so fun the kids don’t know they are learning.
We started the week with a few games and ice breakers – cheesy, I know, but a camp classic. Unfortunately, the children were sooo shy that it sort of crashed and burned, which made us pretty nervous because our next game was animal charades. Amazingly, this one, they loved – and they were GOOD.
Each day, Neo gives short lessons to the kids about their environment, local animals, and living with wildlife. The day is then filled with games and activities, such as predator prey, drawing exercises, and birding. In the afternoon, there is some sort of field trip or interactive activity. For example, yesterday, some of the elders tried to harvest honey to show the children; needless to say it was a bit of a disaster. The poor men were completely swarmed and stung really badly. To get the bees out of the hive, one must smoke them out, but these bees weren’t having any part of it. I am not sure how they ultimately got into the hive (we had to run away to avoid getting stung), but later last night they brought up all the honeycombs. It was REALLY cool – I had never had honey in the comb before. You just put in into your mouth and chew it – the honey just pours into your mouth – then, when you’re done, you spit out the wax. The honey was incredibly flavorful, and I could taste the difference between honey from old honeycombs and new honeycombs. Additionally, the honey was far more watery than I had expected (apparently if you harvest at the end of the dry season, the honey is not as liquid).
Today, we went on a game drive with the kids and the village game scouts. It is incredible how far and clearly they all can see in this landscape. No one wears glasses, and they can tell that a little speck in the distance is an ostrich (for example)! Additionally, we have been setting camera traps in and around camp to see what is sneaking around at night. We have captured pictures of dik-dik, rabbit, civit, and mice. Last night, though, was a great haul – we got TONS of pictures of elephants! Ill try to send you one if the internet allows – it’s a mother and her baby!
We spend each afternoon playing sports. Monday afternoon, all the boys started out playing soccer and all the girls volleyball. Then, I pulled out a Frisbee and they got super into it. Who knew Maasai were amazing Frisbee players? Even the little tiny girls, the teachers, and some workers (my favorite is this one Maasai man who wears a foot long machete-like blade off his waist while playing)!! I am thinking a Maasai Ultimate Frisbee team is in order. After playing, I was sitting with a few girls who kept touching my hair. Here, both boys and girls have shaved heads, so I think my hair (despite being short) was quite novel.
Despite the language barrier, I think I am learning almost as much as the kids at this camp. While they definitely make fun of me when I try, in broken Swahili, to explain things (like how to use binoculars), they have taught me how to say many new words and phrases. Also, while birding and looking at wildlife, I am learning more and more about this extraordinary ecosystem. I feel truly honored to be spending my summer with an organization that is so committed to the people and the wildlife in this area. They know that there is no way to conserve wildlife without working with the local people, and I think their approach is working wonderfully. More updates to come, but I am sure the rest of the week will be as fun for us, and the kids, as the first half has been!