“I wish all learners could have the privilege of being educated in this classroom!” exclaimed a visitor to Bathabile Primary School in Doornrandje. He was admiring the unique Conservancy and SEED-sponsored “green” classroom nearing completion. This egg-shaped classroom, built with strawbales and adobe mud bricks - cool in summer and cosy in winter - may be a first in Gauteng.
SEED (Schools Environmental Education and Development) represented locally by Tina de Waal, is responsible for the prize-winning Bathabile vegetable gardens which provide extra food for almost 1 000 learners every day.
Working with a small team, Conservancy committee member, Niko Knigge, has spent over a year conceptualising and managing the building of the Green Classroom. His contribution to the project has been to give his services for free, a remarkable gift.
Dozens of local citizens and friends have donated money, services and materials. During 2010 the Conservancy ran a “Donate a Strawbale Campaign” in which everyone could choose how many strawbales they wanted to sponsor. Priced at R25 per bale, money came in from friends, kids, organisations and businesses.
Work in progress
Layer upon layer of adobe plastering protects the strawbale walls from rain and invites patterns and shapes to be crafted into the surface. The wooden windows look out over the valleys of the Conservancy and bottles built into the walls add quirky patterns, letting in diffuse light. While building with strawbales is fast the plastering takes a long time as each layer has to be completely dry before the next is applied. With the rains continuing well into autumn this year, the process has been slow.
Don't miss this! Come and listen to popular classical guitarist Tessa Ziegler and rock artist Mike Pilot's music under the winter sky in the Oori Game Reserve on 16 June.
These Soirees in the Veld, arranged by Louis and Fransa Cole of the Oori, are becoming very popular. Different charities have benefitted from them to date and the proceeds of this one will go to court costs incurred during the Wraypex court case against Conservancy members.
Tessa and Mike have recently recorded an album called Classic Meets Rock. The collaboration is one of their most exciting projects to date, giving both the opportunity to push the boundaries of the two different genres of music into one eclectic melting pot.
It includes popular classics such as Mozart 40, Bach Bouree, Rondo, Eine Kleine Nachtmuzik, as well as David Foster’s Winter Games, Whiter Shade of Pale, well-known show tunes such as Phantom of the Opera, Love Changes Everything, Time to say Goodbye and Romance D’amour. The style of their music is unique and has been met with enthusiastic response, from concerts to functions and to clubs.
For details see Conservancy Calendar.
Underground, Stars, Treasure Hunt and Springboks - unusual team names but those were the choices of the local Bathabile Primary School's Grade 7 learners for their foray into the Rhenosterspruit Nature Conservancy on 12 May. “Underground” was a bit mystifying but “Springboks” was understandable - the big orange bus with 85 excited kids had just passed a group of springbok and ostriches grazing peacefully next to the dirt road. The destination for the morning was Koppie-Alleen.
Learning in the veld
The group was raring to explore the wild blue yonder and needed some organising, hence the teams, supervised by teachers and Conservancy members. The top of Koppie-alleen was the ideal “classroom” for a variety of subjects ranging from geology to cultural history, to geography, biology and science, amid a lot of bantering and fun. Said Eric Baloyi, Bathabile's science teacher who organised the tour: “Even the teachers learnt a lot!”
Lunch and fruit juices, donated by the Conservancy and Sir Juice disappeared at speed. No littering was a firm rule of the day and the area was left spotless.
Why does the Conservancy put such emphasis on and so much work into its annual Conservation Calendar?
These events - mainly environmental walks and talks out in the countryside - are monthly opportunities for all and sundry to learn about birds, spiders, scorpions, the stars, geology, history and many other aspects of multi-splendoured nature. “They are organized because of the belief that all people need to interact with nature but often lack the opportunity to do so,” says Dalene van der Merwe, Conservancy committee member who is in charge of the Conservation Calendar.
The importance of the nature-human relationship has now been underlined by science. Just being in an urban environment, scientists have found, impairs our basic mental processes. After spending a few minutes on a crowded city street, the brain is less able to hold things in memory and suffers from reduced self-control. While it's long been recognized that city life is exhausting - that's why Picasso left Paris - this new research suggests that cities actually dull our thinking, sometimes dramatically so.
“It’s the lack of connection with nature that the brain misses severely,” a report on the studies notes. “And this can be clearly demonstrated by the experience of hospital patients. Those who can see trees from their windows tend to recover more quickly than those who only have the walls or TV to look at.” Also, women living in public housing are better able to focus when their apartment overlooks a grassy courtyard. "Even these fleeting glimpses of nature improve brain performance, it seems, because they provide a mental break from the urban roil."
The implications of these findings are significant. For the first time in history, the majority of people reside in cities. For a species that evolved to live in small, primate tribes on the African savannah, such a migration into concrete jungles, surrounded by taxis, traffic and millions of strangers marks a dramatic shift. “Our mental and physical health - and how we act and think - are being dramatically affected by this urban shift." (with acknowledgement to the Boston Globe)
Fun Run and Farmers Market - Saturday 21 May
10km and 5km run in aid of CAD (Christian Action for Dependency)
Time: 06:30 for 07:00
Cost: R35 and R20 pp
Starting point: “Netso Farm”, Gemstones Road, Roodekrans, RNC
Jewellery Course - Saturday 21 May
Jakkalsdans, Oori Game Reserve, RNC.
Cost: R650 includes all materials, equipment, notes and snacks
Only five participants per workshop
Soiree in the Veld - Thursday, June 16
“Classic meets Rock”: Classical guitarist Tessa Ziegler and musician Mike Pilot
Venue: Jakkaldans, Oori Game Reserve, Riverside Estates, RNC
Time: 12:30 for 13:00
Cost: R100 pp (R80 for Conservancy members)
Bring a blanket/camping chair and a picnic basket
Astronomy evening - Saturday 9 July
Presented by the West Rand Astronomy Club at Bonathaba Farm, RNC
Rhenosterspruit AGM - Sunday 17 July
Ride the Rhenoster - Sunday 11 September
Mountain bike ride through the Rhenosterspruit Conservancy
See www.ridetherhenoster.co.za for details.
History Tour - Saturday 17 September
Tour of historical places in the Rhenosterspruit Nature Conservancy
Geology Walk, Scorpion Walk, Bat Talk, Horse Picnic, Bird Walk, Flower Walk.
“I don't understand all these laws and regulations and NEMAs, NEMPAs, EIAs and other unmentionables!” is a lament often heard. Swamped by a plethora of environmental acronyms and ever-changing regulations, the ordinary citizen has reason to be confused.
To shed some light on these issues, the Lammermoor Conservancy recently organised an Environmental Law Workshop presented by Marguerite Davis, an environmental law attorney. Two dozen people attended, arriving from various Gauteng conservancies and ratepayers organisations. All of them have had to deal with government departments and local municipalities regarding environmental issues and finding it a complex and utterly frustrating maze.
PS: Find a useful list of Acronyms and a Gloassary of Environmental Terms at www.conservancies.co.za