Wide eyed Form 2 student, Marium, came within meters of a buffalo, a herbivore regarded as one of the most dangerous animals in Africa.
From the safety of a St Jude’s school bus, she was seeing her biology and geography classes come to life in the heart of one of Tanzania’s renowned national parks, the Arusha National Park.
‘My heart was pumping, we had been learning in class the difference between female and male buffalo, so to be seeing them that close was something you just can’t experience in the classroom. I could even see their weight, head size and type of horns, Marium excitedly shared, after the encounter.
Located just 25km from the Smith Secondary Campus, the varied national park ecosystem is literally on the doorstep for St Jude’s students.
Into the field: 180 students packed out the St Jude’s busses for a tour of the park.
This popular National Park is visited by keen geographers and biologists from across the world, yet many Tanzanian children don’t get the chance to experience the national park that is located in their own backyard.
The School of St Jude is determined to change that, ensuring students have the opportunity to experience the unique attractions of their own country. Thanks to generous donors, all classes from primary to secondary, participate in at least one excursion trip per year.
With Mount Meru, Africa’s fifth highest mountain, making for a spectacular backdrop the intrigued students quizzed the guides about the rare colubus monkeys playing in the canopies above and the grazing zebra herds.
‘I did not know there are different types of zebra and we were shown them all here in Arusha National Park, Marium reflected.
The excursion was also about educating the 180 Form 2 students on the threats facing the animals of their homeland.
Classes come to life: Students are taught about the geography of the parks, thanks to qualified guides.
‘Animal poaching has been in the news recently and coming to the park we have learnt how we can help stop that. I have learnt how animals depend on each other in the wild. Mama Gemma [referring to Founder, Gemma Sisia] was smart to make the Arusha National Park our extended backyard; I now want to protect it. Instead of just writing in the class, you can see it practically with your own eyes,” Form 2 student, Andrea, explained while exploring the dense forest.
It’s this experience of being able to relate theory to the real world that is the goal of taking students on this kind of excursion, Head of Geography, Mr Elimringi, said.
‘In classes we can really only guide students on theory, so once we expose them to these trips they can interpret the theory in a whole new way. We find these trips often make students more interested and engaged with the subjects, he shared while watching students explore the wetlands.
Outdoor classroom: Head of Geography, Mr Elimringi, briefs students about how their classroom learning relates to the world around them.
When it came time for Marium and her classmates to leave the ranging buffalo herd in their natural habitat, they departed having put their learning into context in one very varied and internationally-renowned classroom.