Almost every month, Dargle Wildlife Sightings include a sighting of one of Africa’s most beautiful birds – the Southern African Grey Crowned Crane. Little wonder then that the Crowned Crane is part of the Dargle Conservancy logo. In celebration of our 10th anniversary this year, Dargle Conservancy arranged a talk and sponsored lessons on Cranes in local schools. Dargle Conservancy believes that it is important to inspire the next generation to value the biodiversity of our valley and has for many years supported the creative environmental work of the Midlands Meander Association Education Project (MMAEP) in Dargle schools.
(This photo was taken by Crystelle Wilson, across the hills in Boston.)
In July, Grade 4 and 5 classes at Dargle School enjoyed a lesson on cranes presented by Dargle resident, Eidin Griffin of the MMAEP. The three types of cranes found in South Africa, their habitats, eating habits, how they mate for life and love to dance. Three of the children had seen cranes in the wild. We decided to make two crowned cranes using recycled cardboard tubing, old posters and bags. Two beautiful giant crane puppets went outside to dance in the school grounds!
It was a great morning of learning and play and the children were excited about getting a crane sign for their school. What did the learners think about the lesson?
‘I liked making the cranes, we painted and cut up old bags, we stuffed the head with dried grass and taped on the beak.’
‘I didn’t know that cranes could dance! I thought people are the only ones dancing’
‘The flying and dancing was nice everybody was having fun’
A couple of weeks later, Nikki Brighton arrived to present the school with honorary membership of the Dargle Conservancy and talk to them about the work of the Conservancy and the importance of learning about and caring for the local environment.
The Grade 4s raced off to get their two Crowned Crane puppets and the whole school danced with them around the playground.
Educator, Maureen Mabizela nailed the Dargle Conservancy to the gate surrounded by excited children.
At Corrie Lynn School, Eidin Griffin started the Crane Day off with the tiniest people in Grade R. She reports: After warming up with dancing, counting and colour games I brought out some pictures of the three types of Cranes found in the midlands and we looked at each type. One or two of the children had seen a crowned crane before, which was nice. We talked about where they lived and what they eat and how they dance.
After this we went outside and paired up and practiced our crane dancing. We then went back to the classroom and settled down to draw crowned cranes. The kids and their teacher carried on with this and I headed to the Grade 1 and 2 classroom. I did a fairly similar lesson with these grades except we focussed more on the word ‘habitat’ and looked at what sort of food a crane prefers to eat. A crane menu!
The kids happily pulled out their drawing books and drew cranes with their favourite food surrounding them.
Nikki Brighton arrived at the break and set up her Dargle Conservancy banner much to the interest of all the kids.
She talked about the work of the Conservancy and presented the school with an honorary membership of the Dargle Conservancy.
Eidin then took on the Grade 3 and 4s and looked at cranes and decided to make a big collage. I spread out some material and the children got cutting out animals, birds and insects from magazines. We grouped carnivores, herbivores and omnivores in clusters and labelled them and stuck them on the banner. We found ‘habitats’ such as grasslands, mountains, sea, forest and beaches and grouped them. We had new words such as ‘prey’ and ‘predator’ and glued appropriate animals beside them. It was a VERY busy banner but looks fantastic hanging in the classroom and helps in pictures to describe these terms easily.
After this I took a deep breath and plunged into a series of crane banners with the Grade 5,6 and 7s. They each chose a crane and in groups drew and painted it on big sheets of red material.
They look fantastic and everybody was surprised and impressed by their work. They will be displayed at the MMAEP Annual award ceremony on 28 November at Curry’s Post Primary School.
After all this I was deeply relieved that I live only 2 kms up the road as a long drive would have floored me! Everybody had fun and learnt new things about cranes, their environment and themselves.
As part of the Dargle Decade Celebrations during August, Tanya Smith of EWTs African Crane Conservation Programme gave an inspiring presentation on Cranes in the Dargle and Beyond to Conservancy members. Lesley and Ian Thompson said “We thoroughly enjoyed last night and were impressed with Tanya’s passion and knowledge.” Ann and Mike Weedon commented “We really enjoyed Tanya’s talk.”
Dargle resident and Conservancy member, Jenny Stipcich, has been working with the KZN Crane Foundation this year producing the Cranes in the Classroom series of lessons and recently, Wisdom Tales – Crane Stories from Southern Africa, a book celebrating the ethos of cranes, beautifully illustrated by David Wheildon Oosthuizen. Jenny Stipcich, said “My love affair with cranes began when I met the remarkable Ann Burke and realised how our South African cranes could be used as inspiration for learning about good values.” David added “I am ashamed that I did not even know we had three crane species and it took an American woman (Ann) to teach me about them!”
Ann (Project Manager KZNCF) responded by saying that the book is the result of long-standing collective caring for these Midlands birds, since the establishment of the KZN Crane Foundation 24 years ago. “I believe this is due to recognition that cranes have lived with us for thousands of years – since we were hunters and gatherers and nowadays alongside us in human-transformed agricultural landscapes. When we spend time getting to know the cranes, we discover a deep-rooted respect for their beauty and grace and we begin to understand that cranes reflect some of our most valued human qualities –including parental nurturing and care, faithfulness, and the ability to adapt to changing circumstances.” The book can be purchased at The Lazy Lizard in Howick or from Fordoun in Nottingham Road.
Dargle is definitely Crane Country.