The Grade 7 class from the ZenzeleniWaldorfSchool in Khayelitsha have returned home after a four-day camp in the Cederberg sponsored by the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund. It was not the first camp for their teacher, Tinashe, who brought his Grade 7s to us for a camp in 2009, the first year the CLT’s education project started even before we had our own campsite set up. Tinashe is so taken with the environmental camps that he is planning to set up a similar programme when he returns to Zimbabwe, “It was such a good challenge for them, getting to the top of the mountain. Most of the children were born in Cape Town and have never been out of it before so this was a totally new experience for them. They may not realise the value now but it will stay with them forever.”
As we got out of the bus for the big hike up Welbedacht kloof, the children noticed an unpleasant smell in the air. We all scattered out to find the source of the smell until we came upon Quinton’s baited leopard trap. We explained how the traps worked and why it was important to catch and collar the leopards. Matthew then introduced the group to the fynbos, Ceder trees and hiking obstacles – in this case, rivers and rain! We hiked up to a large old Ceder tree beneath which we had our lunch. Then began the race to the top! Having risen to the challenge and reached the top, it started to pour with rain and everyone was soaked by the time we reached the bus again.
The following morning the group went to Stadsaal where they learned about the historical significance of the area, how it was used by the San bushmen and later as a stronghold and meeting place by the Boers in the Anglo-Boer war. The children then enjoyed exploring the beautifully sculpted rocks on their own.
Later in the day the focus turned to animals, as the children were split into groups, some learned animal tracking and others examined and drew a variety of animal skulls. During the tracking sessions, the groups each chose an animal track and made a plaster cast of it. When the first group was out tracking, they came across a large puff adder sunning himself on the edge of the road. While keeping a safe distance the children engaged in a lesson about these snakes. The children weren’t scared, but rather very curious. They learned from their own observation that the snake had recently had a meal – there was a sizeable bulge in its middle. Seeing the puff adder definitely reinforced what had been said about how they need to keep their eyes open when walking in the veld.
The highlight of the whole trip for many of the children was the walk they did upstream that afternoon to a beautiful pool where they could swim. The children played in the water till they exhausted themselves and came out shivering but happy.
That night Matthew introduced them to star-gazing, where they learned to identify some of the main constellations, like Scorpio, and learned to find their direction using the Southern Cross. The Milky Way was a bright band across the sky.
This was a great adventure for these children, outside of city life, a chance to breathe fresh air, drink clean mountain water, experience silence, run and play and just be themselves and feel calmness. One girl said, “If only I could stay for two more weeks!” When asked what she would do she said, “Climb every mountain.”