Community Conservation Day

Mackenzie Dooner ’17, PEI Summer Intern ・ Princeton Environmental Institute

On Saturday July 11, roughly 300 school children and community members convened for the annual Community Conservation Day in the Laikipia district of Northern Kenya.

The students were all members of the Northern Kenya Conservation Clubs. The Princeton University Development Challenge managed by the Princeton Environmental Institute supported after-school clubs at eleven schools in Laikipia with the aim of instilling students with ecological awareness and a conservation ethic through experiential learning. Outdoor games, bird watching, and data collection are all parts of the diverse curriculum—a curriculum that stands beside action-oriented conservation efforts such as tree planting and the curbing of soil erosion.

Students form Kimanjo Primary School act out their poem on 'Our Environment'
Students from Kimanjo Primary School act out their poem on ‘Our Environment’.

 

The day began with an environmental fair, during which schools displayed everything from a papier-mâché elephant with a comprehensive list of elephant adaptations, to graphs of spatial and temporal comparative rainfall data.

Joshua Wambugu from the Ol Pejeta Conservancy had students from each club speak about their projects and displays to the crowd, and questioned the students about the importance of the conservation projects at their schools and the inspiration for their displays.

Following the fair, each school had the chance to present to the community. The audience enjoyed a poem about the invasive cactus Opuntia stricta, several songs about the changing landscape of Laikipia’s pastoral lands, and multiple dramas about the environmental and social harms of poaching.

Chief Kaparo of Kimanjo and Chief Yangere of Il Motiok, Tiemamut and Mpala look on and congratulate the winners of the environmental Jeopardy game
Chief Kaparo of Kimanjo and Chief Yangere of Il Motiok, Tiemamut and Mpala look on and congratulate the winners of the environmental Jeopardy game.

 

New this year, the gathering featured an ecological version of Jeopardy. Il Motiok and Olgirgiri primary students competed to answer questions from four categories: The World of Plants, Animals Around Us, How the World Works, and Conservation in Action. With a streak of quick, keen answers near the end of the game, Il Motiok Primary took the prize—but both schools were awarded vibrantly illustrated children’s books for their excellent showings.

The event afforded students the opportunity to share ideas for conservation projects at their schools, stress the importance of conserving Laikipia’s precious economic and ecological resources, and to give community members a glimpse into the weekly activities of the students.

Joseph Mosiany, Conservation Liaison Officer, serves as master of ceremonies orchestrating the presentations by each conservation club
Joseph Mosiany, Conservation Liaison Officer, serves as master of ceremonies orchestrating the presentations by each conservation club.

 

The day concluded with the planting of 15 seedlings in the Kimanjo Primary school compound. Club patron Nancy Rubenstein helped plant the seedlings with teachers from each of the club schools as a thank you to the Kimanjo community for hosting the event, and to the club teachers for their continued efforts. 

Joshua Wambugu from Ol Pejeta Conservancy engaging students from each club to discuss their environmental activity. Students from Shiloh Naibor talk about the ways to limit the spread of Opuntia, an invasive species
Joshua Wambugu from Ol Pejeta Conservancy engaging students from each club to discuss their environmental activity. Students from Shiloh Naibor talk about the ways to limit the spread of Opuntia, an invasive species. All photos courtesy of Dan Rubenstein.