Some people might think they are just about fun. Wherever they go the children smile and have a ball – whether it is getting hands dirty, painting walls or planting seeds.
The Midlands Meander Association Education Project (MMEP) is a fantastic organisation that does amazing things in the Midlands schools.
Using charm, humour and sheer exuberance – the BUGS – also known as environmental facilitators – are to be found creating meaningful change in the local school communities.
Using creativity and “magic” they make lessons come alive as they teach children the importance of environmental education. Based in the beautiful KZN Midlands it was imperative to teach children in under privileged schools the value of their glorious environment.
While the focus was initially on the environment and urging young people to look for sustainable options the bugs soon learned themselves that there were other issues that had to be addressed.
Planting food gardens at the schools became a huge priority and adapting the lessons to the school’s circumstances became important. The most amazing accomplishment is the bugs ability to turn lessons into magical stories.
In one lesson you may see a circle of children wearing brightly coloured wizard hats dancing on the edge of a forest. If you look carefully you may observe a handful of purple glitter that turns into a lesson on the spread of germs and bacteria.
They may gather spinach for lunch in the school garden and learning how to cure chapped lips with a succulent plant.
Morals and lessons about our fragile earth are turned into fantastical stories about singing chameleon, a long blue silky sari that turns into a river for a water safety lesson. A lesson on anti-bullying was also added to the mix, collecting books for libraries also evolved into a project and this is just a drop of what they do on a weekly basis in 20 rural schools in the Midlands.
To the casual observer it may seem silly and fun but the core of these lessons is fundamental learning rooted in the CAPS system and these lessons give a new learning dimension to learners who struggle with conventional classroom techniques.
Many children at these schools are under-priviledged and suffer from learning problems and social issues that impact on their ability to perform well at school.
The MMAEP facilitators who are known as the ‘Bugs’ come from different backgrounds and use their widespread skills in gardening, environmental education, art, maths, literacy and communication.
They also work with WESSA to encourage and support the schools to aim for the WESSA Eco-School label.
The long term graduate schools receive fewer visits but are invited to share what they have learned with others. New schools receive frequent visits and support in their first Eco-School steps towards whole school development.
Over the last twelve years many schools have received tools, libraries, garden advice, bursaries and more but the reality is that it’s all about the Bug visits. When the MMAEP Bugs arrive at school there is a flurry of excitement and a real sense of anticipation from learners and their teachers.
This year the Midlands Meander Association Education Project celebrates their 14th birthday.
For further information on the MMAEP www.mmep.co.za or visit the MMAEP facebook page .