Aquarium staff teach learners about greening on Arbor Day

  • 11 September 2013 | Ann Kunz | Category: Education

Happy Ngcobo plants a tree at Duduza Primary School, as learners look on

Ask any rural learner in Grade 3 why trees are important and they will tell you that trees give us oxygen, fruit and shade – three good reasons to be celebrating Arbor Week.

In South Africa the annual event is celebrated during the first week of September, to coincide with the start of spring. However, preparations for Arbor Day start months in advance at uShaka Sea World.

Staff collect seeds and seedlings throughout the year and grow trees for planting on the day, in a specially designated area behind the dolphinarium. This year they grew wild plum, powder puff and the coral tree, a fast-growing endemic species that features bright orange flowers.

As September approached, staff began collecting mulch, compost, spades and shovels and fencing materials. Schools that needed trees were identified and teachers contacted to organise tree-planting activities. 

With preparations complete, they loaded up the uShaka Sea World bakkie each morning and set off on their greening mission with trees for each school.

First stop was Ndimose Primary School in Inanda, where the whole school turned out to listen to the educators’ presentation on the importance of planting indigenous trees and the problems caused by Invasive alien species such as the prolific syringa. The syringa is well known among learners, who use the berries to play games.

SAAMBR CEO Judy Mann plants a crossberry tree opposite the Open Ocean exhibit

Since trees are customarily cut down for firewood, the value of responsible harvesting was also discussed.

Translating the theory into practice for the learners’ benefit, the lesson was taken into the school yard, where they were encouraged to help with the tree-planting.

A demonstration on how to dig the correct size hole, fill it with layers of compost, bone meal and mulch, plant the tree and water it, was rounded off with tips on how to protect saplings from stray soccer balls and roaming animals.

Learners were also taught how to care for seedlings with readily available materials, and how to nurture the seedlings in their back yards. In the years to come, uShaka Sea World’s outreach team will help learners to plant their home-grown seedlings and see them grow into tall trees.

The staff who stayed at home celebrated Arbor Day in a quieter ceremony, by planting the tree of the year, a crossberry (Grewia occidentalis), in the park opposite the Open Ocean exhibit.

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