Our Environmental Education History
Elizabeth Martins, a former Waldorf teacher, has a passion for storytelling and has always loved being in the wilderness. When Elizabeth and Quinton Martins (Co-founder of The CLT) were married, Elizabeth brought her skills and interests into the Trust by creating the Environmental Education Programme. The Programme was launched in 2009, five years after the start of the Trust. It was a natural development in the organization and The Cape Leopard Trust always incorporated education into its approach; however, up until this point the focus had been on educating farmers and special interest groups and had not yet developed into educating children and young people in the general public.
Initially the programme was run and facilitated solely by Elizabeth. With a lot of hard work and dedication she was able to access funding to build a camp site at CapeNature’s Matjiesrivier Nature Reserve in the Cederberg. The camp site was meant to provide an eco-friendly, down-to-earth camping experience. In 2011 the programme was able to purchase a 21-seater Mercedes Bus, thanks to funding from the National Lotteries Distribution Trust Fund (NLDTF). This bus is still being used to this day to take groups to and from the Cederberg and other reserves. That same year the Programme hired an Environmental Educator, Matthew Dowling, who drove the bus and facilitated education processes with camp groups.
In the beginning the focus of the programme was to implement camps. Between 2010 and 2015 more than 120 camps have been implemented with thousands of children. These unique experiences remain a fundamental part of the education work.
By March 2014 the programme had officially launched a Cape Town component, implementing local activities with children and young people in schools and organisations in the city and surrounds. This new development enabled the team to offer more to its partners and to assist schools with implementing local initiatives and incorporating environmental education into the curriculum. To assist with these new activities, The Cape Leopard Trust hired a second Environmental Educator. By this time the programme also had regular internships for assistance with camps.
In 2015 Elizabeth and Quinton relocated to further their careers with snow leopard research and education in the United States. The Education Programme continues to develop, implementing new local activities and hosting camps at the original camp site and at partner venues in the Boland and beyond. True to the initial vision of providing access to environmental education for all communities the programme provides sponsorship for at least 70% of its activities. It now reaches over 5500 children and young people annually.