Have you ever wondered what goes on when our Kouprey Express mobile environmental education unit visits a school?
The March school visits to Angkor Phnom Klong and Veal primary schools in the Cardamom Mountains are a typical example:
Teacher Capacity Building
For three days, the Kouprey Express staff and educators conducted intensive full-day workshops with ten teachers from Angkor Phnom Klong and Veal primary schools in Cambodia’s Koh Kong Province. The team delivered modules on weather, water resources, waste and sanitation, and energy and climate. The final day of workshops featured modules on biodiversity conservation and sustainable livelihoods. After these sessions, the teachers showed greater understanding of each module, and had clear instructions about how to integrate these environment concepts into their core classroom lessons and activities to increase awareness of their students of environmental issues and what the students can do to help protect their natural resources and have a positive impact on their environment.
While developing teacher capacity is critical for the long-term success of our education initiatives, the core of the Kouprey Express remains classroom education with underserved village schools in protected areas. In rural Cambodia, access to education is only sporadic. Many students will attend school only until they can work full-time, and others will attend classes but have to work in agriculture or fishing during the busy part of the year.
At Angkor Phnom Klong and Veal primary schools, the Kouprey Express provided lessons for 290 students from Grades 4 through 6, using a flipchart-based curriculum that can easily be transferred from one school to another, maintaining a consistent lesson plan that was adapted in partnership with the environmental education NGO Live & Learn. Each school is supplied with a flipchart, complete with lesson plans, activities, and ideas that the teachers can use over and over again.
The Kouprey Express spent most of the week working with the teachers and students at Angkor Phnom Klong and Veal primary schools. Highlights of the visit included an interactive demonstration of the Web of Life game, which highlights the interconnectivity of forests, wildlife, and humans.
This game is played by the whole class either inside or outside the classroom, by giving pictures and a string to all students and asking students to stand as circle. For example, if a student is given a picture of the Sun, she will will need to explain why she is important and what role she plays, for example, “I am the sun so I will spread my light to feed the trees,” and then the Sun gives the string to the student holding the picture of a tree. After that the Tree will state his importance, for example, “I am a Tree and I need water for my life,” so the Tree passes the string to the student with the Water card, and so on. When the game finishes the strings from one student to another will look like a spider web. We then explain to students how important and interconnected the web of life is, and how no element can be removed from the ecosystem without affecting the well-being of the other components.
After each Kouprey Express visit, students and teachers are quizzed on their knowledge about environmental principles. The testing illustrates that students understand more clearly such concepts as wildlife protection, the meaning of extinction, and the importance of forests. In particular, students really enjoyed playing environmentally-themed games, such as the Web of Life game. After the school visit, many students also said they felt it is easier to spread environmental concepts and awareness to their friends and family, and share their knowledge with other members of the community.
Each visit to a school is a lengthy process - not simply the week or more spent at each site, but extensive preparation and curriculum development. Each set of trainings with teachers, and classroom- and field-based education with students is usually complemented with a Community Night Show (CNS) that reaches the broader community of nearby villages and settlements. In each CNS, the Kouprey Express team uses interactive games, videos, puppet shows, and music to illustrate environmental principles to the broader community - and thousands may attend each night, drawn in by the opportunity to also participate in karaoke and watch popular movies!