The children who attend the Watoto Bush Club at Mkuyu Guiding School are eager to learn about the world around them.
The Watoto Bush Club sends the children and the guide students out into nature together to participate in activities such as bush walks, bird watching and insect spotting.
The sheer volume and complexity of the questions asked by the children is testimony to the great desire for environmental learning and mentorship in rural communities to compliment their already sharp bush skills. The curiousity of the children is also a challenging test of the skills of Mkuyu guide students!
The Watoto Bush Club utilises the same outside, experiential learning that makes Mkuyu guide students so skilled.
For Mkuyu guide students who show particular committment to the bush club, opportunities exist to undertake a short, paid work experience period as club leader. This is an excellent opportunity for guide students to gain some practical experience as a stepping stone into future careers.
It is hoped that the social and conservation benefits will reach much further than the interest of the children alone. Parents are quickly realising the enthusiasm of their children for attending the club, and some have asked to come along. Children are also sharing what they learn about the environment with their parents. Through educating children, opportunities to also engage adults with the environment and culture are presenting themselves.
Additionally, as pastoralists, farmers and bushmen, the local communities are in a unique position to comment on the state of the natural environment and wildlife communities. Having upcoming generations of club attendees with strong bush knowledge has significant conservation and employment potential and represents a great asset to future generations and to Tanzania. It's all about providing environmental education and experiences in a Tanzanian way, so that the children who attend will take that understanding into their adulthood and use it in a way that is relevant and benefits both human and natural worlds.
Watoto Bush Club
Mkuyu Guiding School student Jema was the first student to take on paid work experience as leader of the Watoto Bush Club.
Drawing in the soil is a fun way for Mkuyu guides to help the children to distinguish between animals and their identifying features.
Mkuyu guide students introduce Maasai children to binoculars and bird watching skills.
As the need for environmental management grows in Tanzania, so too does the need for community developed, initiated and led environmental education.
Mkuyu recognises that this represents a growing area of potential employment for students, and as such has recently developed a partnership program with local Maasai and Hehe communities to facilitate skill development for the students through a bush club for children.
The Watoto Bush Club pairs the strengths and skills of the guide students and young people so that mutual learning and exchange can occur.
The guides & children explore what insects are found on and around different plants.
Maasai are traditionally goat and cattle pastoralists, while subsistence farming is common amongst the Hehe, so children spend much of their time outside and walking with herds through the bush from a young age. As such, many children have an awareness of the land around them. Community and values-based learning are important cultural mechanisms by which children learn more about what they are seeing and experiencing.
As Mkuyu students to practice their guiding skills with the children, they are not only gaining invaluable professional experience, but also helping the kids to access rich, fun bush education.
We are excited at Mkuyu Guiding School to see how the Watoto Bush Club will develop over time. While the program is still very new, we are hoping to incorporate activities that will also engage adults with the program and increase mentoring roles between guide students and the children in multiple aspects of environment, society and culture.
We are also hoping to arrange scholarships for promising Watoto Bush Club goers to attend Mkuyu as a students in the future.