For more than 10 years, the Zoo has partnered with Miami University’s Project Dragonfly to lead graduate courses that take educators into the field to experience community-based conservation, participatory education and inquiry firsthand. This year, I had the fortunate opportunity to co-facilitate Earth Expeditions Kenya: People and Wildlife in Integrated Landscapes with Dave Jenike, the Zoo’s COO. We took 17 educators with us, including formal classroom teachers as well as informal educators from zoos and similar institutions. This is the fourth post in a series about our experience. Read the previous post in this blog series here.
In addition to working alongside the researchers and staff at the Lale’enok Resource Centre, we also took part in some other amazing activities.
Open Inquiries and Group Discussions
Core to the mission of Earth Expeditions is inquiry. Following the QUEST model of inquiry promoted by Project Dragonfly, the students split up into small groups to conduct their own scientific investigations. Some of the creative comparative questions they asked included looking at whether there was greater terrestrial invertebrate species richness close to or farther from the river and whether DEET or dirt worked better as a bug repellent. The students also led a group discussion on community-based conservation.
Each day, about an hour or so before sunset, we would split up into the three cruisers and head out to look for wildlife on a game drive through the Olkirimatian and Shompole conservancies. While driving through Amboseli National Park earlier in the week was amazing, seeing an abundance of diverse wildlife—from zebras to bat-eared foxes to giraffes— living here on Maasai land was even more compelling.
At one point, our guide, Patrick, stopped to cut small branches off of a Salvadora bush. Using a knife, he pared down one end of each twig and passed them out. We chewed the ends until the fibers separated, creating a brush and then brushed our teeth with it the way the Maasai do.
The most exciting moment had to be when my cruiser came upon a young lion laying in the middle of the dirt road just after sunset, and this happened not long after we had to stop to change a flat tire in the bush!
Maasai Boma Visit
One late afternoon, instead of heading out on a typical game drive, we were invited to visit with a Maasai family at their boma. When we arrived, the woman and her two young girls greeted us and showed us around.
As it neared sunset, we joined the herder as he brought his cattle home. In fact, he handed over the herding stick and a few of the students took over. Apparently, herding cattle is much harder than it looks! It was quite comical to watch the students try to keep the cows all moving in the right direction at the right pace.
Once the cattle were finally in their corral, the woman then showed us how she milks the cows. I can’t imagine what kind of trouble we’d have if she’d asked us to give that a try!
To be continued in a future blog post. Check back soon!
2 thoughts on “Earth Expeditions: Participating in Community-Based Conservation in Kenya – Part IV”
Ms. Bray, Very interesting description of your adventures in Africa that I enjoyed reading, but I can’t resist pointing out that in your sentence: “The most exciting moment had to be when my cruiser came upon a young lion laying in the middle of the dirt road just after sunset, and this happened not long after we had to stop to change a flat tire in the bush!” that the lion was lying, not laying…