Delta Environmental Centre (DEC) has developed into a facility that epitomises “Environmental Education in Action”
Delta Environmental Centre is a private, independent non-profit organisation (established in 1975) that aims, through innovative education and training programmes and consultation, to enable people to improve the quality of their environment by promoting the management and sustainable use of all resources, in line with the South African Constitution.
DEC’s MISSION is:
- To create an awareness about environmental issues by imparting / sharing appropriate knowledge;
- To introduce new, and enhance existing participants’ skills;
- To develop responsible values and attitudes towards the environment; and
- To encourage participation in environmental “action” projects.
WHO WE ARE
DEC is located in Delta Park, Johannesburg, about 10km northwest of the city centre. The Centre is housed in a municipal building that was originally built in the 1930’s as a sewage works. The building is an extremely good Johannesburg example of Art Deco architecture and housed the main works. (The building has now been awarded local heritage status.) The sewage works were closed in June 1963 with the building earmarked for demolition.
DEC’s founder and first chairman, Mr Norman Bloom, had a vision for the building and a Board of Directors was appointed. A comprehensive fund-raising effort was established. Sections of the building were transformed in stages and DEC now houses a Natural History museum, “hands-on” activity rooms, and auditorium and a large function room, a resource centre and a variety of exhibits e.g. replicas of Mrs Ples and the Taung child, recycling and water-wise equipment. A council sewage-work building has been transformed into a vibrant centre that works with 20 000 learners and 5 000 educators annually. About 2 000 conference delegates also come to the centre for seminars, presentations, meetings, launches etc.
Delta Park, a large urban municipal-owned park of 100 hectares, was developed around the building in the 1970’s. The Florence Bloom Bird Sanctuary (a 10 hectare fenced off area with 2 grassed areas), 5 dams and the Braamfontein Spruit on its eastern boundary, is used extensively by DEC as an “outdoor classroom”.
Programmes for school groups range from, for example, “Creepy Crawlies” to “Energy Conversations” and suit learners from Pre-School to Grade 12. Educators are offered workshop training in curriculum-linked environmental issues so that they can foster an appreciation of the need for a “healthy environment” in young people. Vibrant, well-informed environmental “activists” are mentored and encouraged to make planet Earth a “better place for all”.
DEC has matured into a leading institution in the field of environmental education, training and consultation and is an accredited training provider with the Education, Training and Development Practice – Sector Education and Training Authority (ETDP-SETA), and with the University of the North West (UNW). The training of educators and government officials has become a key focus for DEC and we believe that by offering these accredited Short Courses, the Centre will be in a better position to sustain its activities.
The curriculum implementation process in South Africa has been reviewed recently and many challenges have emerged. The urgent need for educator training and up-skilling has been identified. DEC is well-placed to play a vital role in this regard. South Africa’s National Curriculum Statement (NCS) has a very progressive approach with the underlying principle that all learners need to be made aware of the relationship between “human rights, social justice, a healthy environment and inclusivity.” A great challenge lies ahead for DEC to realize this goal.
DEC finds itself in a unique situation because it is an independent organisation and does not have a guaranteed funding base. It is, therefore, critical that viable partnerships are formed with a wide spectrum of organizations from government through to the private sector. Creative opportunities are being sought.