The Delta Environmental Centre is housed within a converted sewage works building, situated in a municipal park (Delta Park) in Victory Park, a suburb in Johannesburg. The building had been abandoned for some 10 years before the decision was made by the Johannesburg municipality to demolish it. At this stage (1974), Norman Bloom, an antique dealer with a keen interest in conservation, realized the potential of the building as a museum and set about saving it for this purpose. Aided by an initial grant of R10 000 from a construction firm for the specific purpose of renovating the outside of the building, the project got underway. Further funds were obtained for the development of the interior into a series of exhibits/displays, workrooms and an Auditorium. A later grant of R500 000 provided a second storey which initially provided office space and a large conference room.
The first permanent staff member (education director) of the Centre, Linda Paxton, was appointed in June 1986. At that stage, the focus of the Centre was on nature conservation (hence its original name – ‘S A Nature Conservation Centre’). Due to the demands from the community (more specifically teachers and school groups) and the international focus on the environment as a whole, the emphasis changed to environmental education.
At present, the Centre caters for a wide spectrum of participants. It has a permanent full-time staff of 12 and a permanent part-time staff of 5. The Centre is open from Monday to Friday for school programmes and caters for some 15 000 teachers and learners annually. During the weekend, the Centre is open by arrangement for functions, workshops and other specially arranged groups.
Since its opening in 1986, thousands of individuals have participated in Delta’s environmental education programmes either as learners, college or university students and many people who visit the Centre later recall the fun and informative programmes they enjoyed on a school outing. All programmes and workshops are curriculum linked and focus on aiding teachers, principals, subject advisors and district officials to incorporate environmental awareness into their programmes and to encourage appropriate action.
The increasing support received by the Centre from a wide variety of groups and institutions indicates that the educational service is fulfilling a vital service.