* Projects, because of their hands-on and self-study components, allow children to develop skills, such as time management, working with people, public speaking, acting on their own initiative, observation, recording, classifying and identifying.
* Projects can foster the development of a child's potential by exposing him or her to new situations. Each time a child stretches his or her capacity to handle the world, an improved self image, increased confidence, and autonomy can result.
* Projects can be enjoyable, exciting, rewarding and just plain fun!
* Environmental projects have the potential of inspiring in children an interest in and appreciation of the environment.
* Project-based teaching can lead to more child-centred learning with increased pupil participation.
A well-set project requires children to develop their knowledge and the skills needed to make responsible decisions about the environment. In addition, a project can lead to positive action around a local environmental problem.
A topic that addresses real problems and poses real solutions is preferable to a project for the project's sake. Once the topics have been chosen, issue written instructions - ideally this guiding framework should be developed with the pupils. Points to include:
* Topic - depending on the difficulty of the topic and the age of the children you may find it helpful to give a breakdown of sub-headings.
* Resources - a list of people, places, books, magazines or newspapers which provide information at a suitable level. As far as possible, projects should lead children to investigate local environmental features or issues, such as a waste dump, pond, animal, open field, or people's views and opinions. These should be the main 'resource', as opposed to only the books in the library. Direct observation is the name of the game. Remember, it is a wise teacher who liaises with the 'resource' prior to sending a posse of eager children into the field!
* Presentation - the method of presentation should be clarified at the onset of the project -again give a choice if possible. A project could be presented in the form of a song, a poster, a tour of the study area or a slide show. The method of presentation should allow the child to demonstrate understanding of the topic, and not simply recall from memory. Much of the value in doing an independent investigation lies in this `show biz' angle of sharing with others - encourage mixed media, creativity and flair.
* Evaluation - it is vital that the goal posts are in good view. Give clear outlines of the criteria (possibly selected in collaboration with the class) against which the project is to be evaluated. This requires that the teacher has clearly defined aims. In deciding how to evaluate it is useful to remember that evaluation should take into account the child's potential, as well as the child's evaluation of his or her own efforts.
* Deadline - the capacity to manage one's time and work to a deadline is well worth learning at an early age. Give a realistic deadline, and be firm, but fair, in maintaining it.
Clear instructions are essential - pupils thrown in the deep end without adequate guidelines become bewildered and frustrated. At the end of the day a parent, understandably, takes the initiative in ensuring the project is completed and the teacher wonders why! In considering both parental involvement as well as guidance from the teacher, having the project completed in mainly school time is an option. Parental support, however, can be very valuable and a letter to the parents, issued together with the child's instructions, might be a diplomatic move.
ENVIRONMENTAL COMPETITIONS: GUIDE FOR TEACHERS AND CLUB LEADERS. Department of Environment Affairs, address below. GUIDELINES FOR CONSERVATION PROJECTS IN SCHOOLS. H. Viljoen and A. Moore. Department of Environment Affairs, address below.
WE CARE! and WE CARE! PRIMARY. Two resource packages full of good ideas - available from Department of Didactics, University of Stellenbosch, Stellenbosch, 7735. Tel. 02231-772293.
ENVIRO FACTS: 60 fact sheets covering a range of environmental issues. Available from Share-Net, address below.
ENVIROTEACH. Magazine, published 3 times each year. Provides a range of information for all involved with environmental education. The Communications Group, PO Box 7870, Johannesburg, 2000. Tel. 011-835 2221.
ENVIRO-PICTURE BUILDING. A game that incorporates research and action-taking; deals with various environment (e.g. rural, urban); ideal for Projects. Available from the Shell Education Service, PO Box 2231, Cape Town, 8000. Tel. 021-253 807
Department of Environment Affairs and Tourism. P/Bag X 447, Pretoria, 0001. Tel. 012-310 3425.
The Wildlife Society of Southern Africa. Head Office, PO Box 44344, Linden, 2014. Tel.011-486 3294/5 or 0938. Branches country-wide.
Share-Net: people, places and publications for environmental education. PO Box 394, Howick, 3290. Tel. 0332-303931. Ask for their catalogue.
Project WATER. Umgeni Water, PO Box 9, Pietermaritzburg, 3200. Tel. 0331-454365 and St. Andrew's College, Somerset Street, Grahamstown. Tel. 0461-27214.
SWAP (Stellenbosch Water Analysis Project). Department of Didactics, University of Stellenbosch, Stellenbosch, 7735. Tel. 02231-772293.
Your local teacher's centre and municipal and school library.