Environmental Education

uMngeni Valley Nature Reserve & Education Centre

The staff at uMngeni Valley relish the challenge of designing new courses and welcome opportunity to develop new ideas with teachers. We encourage you to make a booking for a few days with us to share good learning opportunities with our staff through fun and adventure! Below is a selection of some of our more popular activities in the Reserve.
  • Introduction
    Our Education Centre enables all learners to experience nature as an extension of the class or lecture room. The learning is not confined to Natural Sciences, Geography and Conservation, but can also include History, Language, Technology and Mathematics at all levels, from Pre-primary to Post Graduate level. The courses vary from one to four days and make use of our qualified field educators.
    All courses offered at uMngeni Valley have several underlying outcomes:
    • Sharpening senses and stimulating an awareness of the environment and its problems.
    • Investigating ecological and geographical concepts through a learner-centred practical approach to learning.
    • Satisfying curriculum needs through environmental investigation and if desired, the completion of student projects after the course.
    • Developing problem solving skills, on an individual level and through group work.
    • Providing an opportunity for solitude and reflection as a means of clarifying and reconsidering values and attitudes.
    • Reinforcing a long term positive attitude to the environment through enjoyable experiences.
    • Encouraging continued involvement in the resolution of environmental and social issues.
    We offer a variety of courses for school groups of all ages, Research groups (IRP’s), tertiary groups, as well as adult and corporate groups. These courses may be half day, full day or overnight and include anything from environmental education, to leadership and team building. For all our activities, we split large groups into smaller units of about 15-20, each with their own field guide. Trails take learners through varying habitats and a variety of topics such as ecology, adaptions, natural resources, soil and water studies, population dynamics, map work, animal and plant behavior and inter-relationships.
    During the evenings all the participants gather around the camp fire to discuss the day’s activities. The day ends quietly with star-gazing, warm camaraderie and a hot drink. The occasional discomforts of scratches, being wet and fatigued, seldom dampens the joy of discovery, beauty and outdoors elation. A solitaire period encourages learners to reflect, philosophise and write about their reactions to the environment. At the end of a course, learners have not just acquired factual knowledge, they are also enriched by having a new perspective of themselves and their role on planet Earth.
    The courses listed can either be done in isolation, or could be chosen for a new combined study over a longer period of time. Courses specific to your outcomes and needs can be designed alongside you, to ensure you receive exactly what is needed.
    Booking procedure:
    1. Contact us to discuss the details of your requirements, dates, kit requirements, camp allocations, meal plans etc
    2. A booking form and all the requirements will be emailed to you once the booking is made
    3. Confirm your booking, by sending the required deposit and returning the signed booking form
    4. Confirm your programme with your field guide
    • Geography
      Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) (2 Hours) (Grades 10-12)
      • What is an EIA?
      • Discuss issues relating to EIA's?
      • Complete a checklist for a certain area designated to be developed and assess the environmental impacts.
      • Debate for and against development.
      Map-work (2-4 Hours) (Grades 7-12)
      • Use a 1:50 000 map to answer certain questions, involving calculating distance, identifying key features, map scale, landforms and contours etc.
      • Different map types, including Synoptic weather maps.
      • Position using bearing.
      • Using a map and a set of clues, race in teams to find hidden tags in the reserve (orienteering).
      Geomorphology (2-4 Hours) (Grades 10-12)
      • Whilst in the Shelter Falls Valley, complete a worksheet covering:
      • A cross section of the valley;
      • The formation of rivers;
      • Drainage basins/catchment areas;
      • Stream orders;
      • Waterfalls;
      • Basic rock types;
      • Landforms;
      • Plate tectonics.
      Urban Survey (1-2 Hours) (Grades 6-9)
      • Survey the town of Howick and complete a worksheet about:
      • The history of Howick;
      • What attracts tourists to Howick;
      • An overview of businesses in Howick.
      • Your own transport to town is required.
      Urban Settlement/Population Geography (2-3 days as a research project or 1 day as an introduction) (Grades 10-12)
      • Compile a questionnaire and interview residents from informal settlements, RDP villages and the upper class areas of Howick.
      • Compare each one according to the research or workbook criteria.
      Valley Micro-climates (2-3 days as a research project or 1 day as an introduction) (Grades 10-12)
      • What is a micro-climate?
      • What is aspect and how does it affect vegetation?
      • Collect data for research projects or to answer work book. ( Soil moisture, vegetation quadrants, temperature etc.)
      The Atmosphere (2-4 Hours) (Grades 8-12)
      • The Ozone layer;
      • The Greenhouse Effect;
      • Factors that affect Global warming.
    • Sciences
      Life Sciences/Natural Sciences
      Basic Ecology (1-4 Hours) (All)
      • There are a wide variety of activities associated with Ecology. Some topics (each associated with various activities)include:
      • Food chains/webs and food pyramids.
      • Abiotic/Biotic factors.
      • Ecosystems and biomes.
      • Producers, consumers, decomposers.
      • Terminology
      Biodiversity Studies (0.5-2 Hours) (All)
      • Compare the biodiversity of various eco-systems such as grasslands, exotic plantations and indigenous forests by using a variety of data collection methods.
      • This can be expanded into a IRP (Investigative Research) topic for Grade 10-12 projects.
      Skulls and Dentition (1-2 Hours) (Grades 5-9)
      • Study dentition of herbivores, carnivores and omnivores.
      • Study the key features of skulls.
      Climate Change (0.5-2 Hours) (All)
      • Discuss the causes and effects of climate change.
      • Calculate your carbon footprint.
      • Climate change picture building game.
      • Carbon footprint game.
      Forest Studies (1-3 Hours) (All)
      • Group observation and poster drawing (different levels in a forest).
      • Using your senses.
      • Biodiversity within a forest (soil organisms, bird life etc.)
      Frogging (3 Hours-Summer evenings only) (All)
      • Learn how to catch and identify frogs.
      • Interesting frog facts.
      • Learn about where frogs live.
      Grassland Studies (1.5 hours) (Grades 4-7)
      • Explore the grassland
      • Complete various activities to do with the plants and animals found there.
      • Look at unique adaptions of species to the grassland
      Grassland Studies (2 Hours) (Grades 8-12)
      • Group observations and report backs on components of a grassland.
      • Grassland poetry.
      • Identify grass species.
      • Step point method (percentage basal cover)
      • Veld assessments (Can be expanded into an Investigative Research project for Grades 10-12)
      Soil Studies (1 Hour) (Grades 6-9)
      • Various experiments to determine: soil types, moisture, texture, acidity and colour.
      • Humus content.
      • Identify soil organisms.
      Tree Trails (1 Hour) (Grades 6-12)
      • Identify and learn about a variety of trees in Umgeni Valley Nature Reserve.
      Water Quality (miniSASS) (1 Hour) (All)
      • Catch water organisms from a variety of ecosystems within a river, identify them and then record on score sheets to assess the water quality (miniSASS- Stream Assessment Scoring System).
      • This can be expanded into an Investigative Research project for Grades 10-12.
      Wetland Studies (2 Hours) (Grades 6-12)
      • What is a wetland?
      • Human impacts negatively affecting Wetlands
      • Wetland Games (e.g. Picture Building, metaphor game)
      • This can be expanded into an Investigative Research project for Grades 10-12.
    • Economics & Mathematics
      Economics & Mathematics
      Basic Budgeting (1-2 Hours) (Grades 10-12)
      • Learners are taught the basics of creating a budget.
      • Learners then need to design a budget for a real-life situation from uMngeni Valley Nature Reserve, using realistic figures.
      Tree Calculations (1 Hour) (Grades 10-12)
      • Calculate the height of a tree using Pythagoras
      • Calculate the volume of timber from a tree with given dimensions (Cylinder formula)
      Area Calculations (1 Hour) (Grades 10-12)
      • Measure out dimensions of a given piece of land and calculate the surface area.
      • Calculate the area of land covered by vegetation, using the step point method for percentage basal cover.
    • Tourism
      Eco-tourism/Sustainable Tourism (2 Hours) (Grades 10-12)
      • What is Eco-Tourism?
      • Learn about sustainable technologies used for tourism facilities
      • Complete a practical workbook, covering issues related to sustainable living and tourism
      World Heritage Sites (1-2 Hours) (Grades 10-12)
      • What are World Heritage Sites?
      • What is their importance?
      • What are South Africa's World Heritage Sites?
    • Languages
      Grassland Poetry (1 hour) (All)
      • Walk through the grassland blindfolded, with a partner leading you, and record adjectives describing what you feel and smell around you. Compose a poem using these adjectives.
      Solitaire (1-2 hours) (All)
      • Time of quiet and reflective solitude, with opportunities for writing short poetry, creative writing, drawing or simply enjoying nature.
      Camp Concert (1 hour) (All)
      • Groups are given topics or scenarios to create short plays/skits reflecting on their time at uMngeni Valley Nature Reserve (ideal for around the campfire).
      • Talent show, where learners display their own talents around the campfire.
    • Sustainable Living
      Sustainable Living
      Carbon footprints (2 hours) (Grades 6-12)
      • What is a carbon footprint?
      • Calculate how large your carbon footprint is
      • Play the carbon footprint game and learn how you can live more sustainably.
      • Introduce the concept of handprints, as actions we can take to reduce our carbon footprint
      Environmental Crisis (1 hour) (Grades 10-12)
      • A presentation of photos and information about environmental issues and the role we can play in reducing it
      Enviro-meal (4 hours) (Grades 7-12)
      • Participants plan a meal, go shopping for ingredients, and the cook and eat their own creations.
      • Meals are judged and points are awarded, based on how environmentally friendly the products and processes are in preparing their meal
      Sustainable Technologies Tour (1 hour) (Grades 5-12)
      • Tour the uMngeni Valley Nature Reserve Sustainability Commons and learn about different technologies, used to save energy and water
      • Learn how you can apply these at your own home
    • Activities
      Adventure/Team-Building/leadership Activities
      Raft-building (4 hours) (Grades 7-12) (learners must be able to swim)
      • Carried out at Midmar Dam (an additional transport cost is included)
      • Each team is given barrels, ropes and poles with which they have to design and build a raft that can hold all the team members while racing other teams to the end point.
      Obstacle Course (1-2 hours) (Grades 4-12)
      • Each obstacle is taken as a separate challenge and requires team work to complete each task
      • Can be done as a timed competition between groups
      Survival/bush skills (1-4 hours) (Grades 6-12)
      • Learn basic survival skills in the bush; making a fire, cooking their own food, building a shelter, collecting drinking water, finding time etc.
      Umgeni Amazing race (2 hours) (Grades 5-12)
      • A series of team challenges to complete
      • Teams race each other to complete each task and be the first team back
      Orienteering (3 hours) (Grades 5-12)
      • Teams are given a map and must work together, racing to find the clues hidden around the Nature Reserve
      Abseiling (4 hours for groups of 15) (Grades 4—12)
      • A 10m abseil for beginners or a 28m abseil near our spectacular View Site. Both with qualified mountaineer/s.
      • An additional charge per person is levied for this activity
      Group Dynamic Activities (1-5 hours) (Grade4-12) or (Corporate)
      • A series of games and challenges that are designed to develop teamwork, illustrate the dynamics within a group, and bring a team closer to each other
      Rock hopping and swimming (2-3 hours) (Grades 4-12) (Learners must be able to swim)
      • Visit the Cascade Falls or the Shelter Falls by scrambling over rocks to get to the best views
      • Have fun in the stream, sliding down our very own "Bum Slide", naturally carved out of rock
      • Swim in the rock pools
      Leadership (1-2days) (Grades 6-12)
      • Programmes designed to the specific groups needs
      • Ideal for Prefect groups
      • Both theory and practical sessions focus on leadership styles, communication skills and problem-solving
      Karkloof Canopy Tours (Depends on group size, around 4 hours) (Grades 4-12)
      • Glide across the pristine indigenous Karkloof Forest
      • Why not end your tour with a forest study
      • Tours done with qualified guides
      • Additional cost on request (Groups booking through uMngeni Valley Nature Reserve receive a discount)
    • Trails
      Interpretive Trail Activities
      The duration of the trails is group dependent, they range from 1 hour to 4 hours. All the activities below are available for all age groups.
      Animal tracking and dung identification
      • Use a tracking sheet to identify animal tracks and dung along the trail
      Animal Homes
      • Discussions and interactions around termite mounds, Warthog/Porcupine holes, bird's nests and any other animal homes seen during the trail
      Blindfolded Trails
      • In pairs, one person is blindfolded, whilst the other one leads. Using communication skills and trust, the pair must walk a certain distance and then swop roles
      • Learn about how to identify birds and what to look for
      • With the help of the bird guides, identify the birds seen along the trail and record them on the bird list
      "Bok drol spoeg"
      • A competition to see who can spit buck droppings the furthest
      • A lot of fun and an opportunity for learners to have a 'taste' of nature
      Plant and animal identification
      • Whilst walking along the trail, identify certain plants and animals and learn some interesting facts related to these
      • A chance for learners to engage with their surroundings, ask questions and discuss information
      Scavenger hunts
      • Whilst walking along the trail, collect the items listed on your themed card
      • At the end of the trail there is time for discussions around what the learners have found (interesting insects, seeds, flowers etc.)
      Artists' Palettes
      • Learners are given cards with which they are to create their own colourful, natural, artists' palette
      • Learners collect natural materials and create their own unique collage to take home with them.
      • An educational alternative for this activity is to use ecological terms on each card, and learner need to collect items related to their term
  • Nocturnal Activities
    Nocturnal Activities (Adapted for all ages)
    Night Walk (2 Hours)
    • Enjoy the night sounds and possibly spot some nocturnal animals whilst walking along one of our hiking trails after dark
    • Find different insects that are active at night
    Star-Gazing (2 Hours)
    • Enjoy the night sounds and beautiful star-studded sky, whilst lying on your backs and appreciating the great expanse above you
    • The education officer will give you a star talk, and inform the learners of constellations, shooting stars and other interesting facts about our solar system, galaxy and universe
    • Design a constellation – the ancient Greeks noted patterns in the stars and named them according to mythical creatures. Look at the stars and form your own pattern, draw the pattern, then make up your own legend to go with it.
    Stalk the Lantern (2 Hours)
    • A traditional camp favourite!
    • The education officers hide a lantern out in the bush/grassland, and learners have to 'stalk' through the grass and try and get to the lantern without being spotted by the education officer
    Camp Concert (2 Hours)
    • A good activity for the last night of camp
    • Groups are given time to prepare their skits and then perform them around the camp fire, reflecting on memories made at camp
    • This activity also lends itself to sharing camp fire stories or African legends (Ask your education officer to share some with you)
    Capture the flag (2 Hours)
    • Teams have to protect their flag whilst trying to capture another teams flag
    • This can be done by torchlight or during the day
    Caterpillar Lines (1 Hour)
    • Loops are made in a length of rope, one per each person in the group
    • Each person must stand in a loop and tie it around their waist.
    • They are blindfolded and taken on a walk by the education officer
    • The education officer will stop periodically at points of interest and allow them to feel or smell different plants or surfaces
    Sound Safari (1 Hour)
    • Everyone in the group is labelled either "animal" or "hunter".
    • The "animals" hide somewhere in the bushes or trees and imitate sounds of their favourite animals
    • The "hunters" then need to quietly hunt their pray. If you are hunted you are out
    Endangered Species Hunt (1 Hour)
    • Learners are sent on a search with their torches to find the reflecting "eyes" of endangered species
    • Once they find an endangered species they discuss the species and why it is endangered
    Nocturnal Treasure Hunt (2 Hours)
    • Use the map to find your first clue
    • Complete the activities to fine the next clues, until you find the "Treasure Chest"
    • Winning team gets to keep the contents of the chest
    Umgeni Minute-to-win-it (2 Hours)
    • Compete in teams to complete the minute-to-win-it challenges
    • Points are scored and at the end of the evening the winning team is awarded the prize
    Umgeni Mini Olympics (2 Hours)
    • Compete in pairs to complete each of the challenges (Hurdles, Javelin, Shot put, Sprint, Formula 1, Horse racing, Hockey)
    • The team with the highest points after all the rounds wins the prize
    Traditional tasty treats (1 Hour) (Additional cost or in replacement of dinner desert)
    • S'mores – roast marshmallows over the fire, and create a sandwich with chocolate, marshmallow and Marie biscuits. A definite camp favourite.
    • Banana pods – slice banana, fill it with chocolate and marshmallows, wrap it with tinfoil and place it on the fire until all is melted and cooked. A squishy, sticky, delicious mixture!
    • Stokbrood (stick bread) – wrap a ball of bread dough around the end of the stick and cook it slowly over the fire. Once golden brown, coat in syrup and enjoy.
  • Pre-school/Foundation Phase
    Pre-school/Foundation Phase programs:
    Touch Science (1-2 Hours)
    • The exploration of Non-Newtonian Fluids using the Dr Seuss Story – Bartholomew and the Oobleck
    • Create your own Oobleck in groups, and touch and explore a non-Newtonian fluid
    Nature Memory Game (1 Hour)
    • An educational matching game and sensory activity
    • Helping children develop focus, memory and recognition skills
    Nature Rubbings (1 Hour)
    • Children use their paper and crayons to collect as many different rubbings of different items in nature (Leaves, Bark etc.)
    • Children discuss what they learnt and saw with the Education Officers
    What does it mean to be green? (1 Hour)
    • Children learn what it means to live sustainably
    • Children are taught using the Book What it means to be green?
    • Children learn a variety of ways they can start becoming green
    What a plant needs (1 Hour)(additional cost applicable)
    • Children learn what plants need to survive
    • Children are allowed to plant their own indigenous plant seed, to take home an grow
    • Children complete and colour their own worksheet
    Insect Search (1 Hour) (best done in summer months)
    • Children complete their own insect booklets (designed for emergent readers)
    • Then children go on a "bug hunt" to find and identify as many insects as possible
    • Older children can complete a "what is my bug" worksheet
    We're going on a bear hunt (1 hour)
    • Using the popular book as a guide children create their own map and pretend binoculars
    • Children then "go on a bear hunt" following the fun story with its actions
    Scavenger Hunt (1 Hour)
    • A scavenger hunt designed specifically with younger learners in mind, using pictures & words to guide them
    • E.g. a colour scavenger hunt, creepy crawlies, animals
    The Water Cycle (1-2 Hours)
    • Children learn about the water cycle with their own worksheet
    • A water cycle bag activity and video clip
    Bird Feeders (1 Hour)
    • Children create their own simple birdfeeders, from recyclable material, to take home
    • Children learn about the importance of birds
    Create an Animal (1 Hour)
    • Children pretend they are a zoologist who has just discovered a new animal
    • Children create this animal out of play dough
    • Children name their animals and share them with the rest of the group
    • Older children can fill in a fact sheet about their animal to report on its needs and habitat
    Photosynthesis (1 Hour)
    • Children learn about photosynthesis through a special song, designed to fit the theme song from The Addams Family
    The Butterfly life cycle (1 Hour) (additional cost applicable)
    • Children learn about metamorphosis through creating their own butterfly lifecycle with paper and snacks
    • Older children can also create their own Butterfly life cycle flip book
    My Nature Walk (2 Hours)
    • Children go on a guided interpretive trail to discover all sorts of interesting natural objects, plants, animals etc.
    • Children collect items on their Artists pallet to discuss and take home
    • Older children can complete the my nature walk worksheet (on my walk I saw, smelled, heard, touched, tasted)
    Nature Bingo (0.5 Hours)
    • Children play a fun, competitive game of Bingo, with a nature theme
    Make your own Solar Oven (2 Hours) (best done in the Summer months; additional cost applicable)
    • Children create their own mini Solar oven to take home with them
    • Children attempt to bake a S'more in their oven, if the weather is good
    Mini Sass-Water Study (2 Hours)
    • Children create their own under-water magnifying glass using recyclable materials
    • Children collect water invertebrates from a shallow stream/puddle and identify them, to discover the quality of the water
    Recycling (2 Hours)
    • Children learn all about recycling through;
    • A fun song (to the tune of row, row, row your boat)
    • Recycle rubbish relay
    • Rubbish fashion show
    • Tour of the WESSA recycling depot
    Leaf Crowns (0.5 Hours)
    • Children make crowns for themselves, out of fallen leaves.
    On Safari (1 Hour)
    • Children use a map and their own handmade binoculars to search for the large, hidden cut-out animals in the Gum-tree forest
    Let's Experiment (1 Hour) (additional cost applicable)
    • Children are guided through a variety of simple science experiments (Education Officers demonstrate the experiments)
    • Children learn about different, interesting science facts through the experiments
    • Choose 3 of the following: Make a cloud, making raisins dance, bag and pencil magic, elephant toothpaste, exploding bags, magnetic slime, Oobleck (Non-Newtonian Fluid), Lava lamp, Fizzing fairy potion.
    Enviro-picture building Puzzle (0.5 Hours)
    • Children build their own Enviro-picture puzzle and discuss what is in it with the Education Officer
    • Enviro-picture building puzzles are available to purchase on site
    Camouflage (1 Hour)
    • Children learn about camouflage through an interactive game of "camouflage/hide-and-seek" out in the reserve
    • The Education Officers seek the children out
    Outdoor Art (1 Hour)
    • Children create their own environmental poster, using natural items found lying on the ground
    • No natural, living item is allowed to be damaged
    On Track (1 Hour)
    • Children go on a walk and identify animals through their tracks/spoors and signs
    • Children are given a spoor chart to assist with identification
    Nature Scents (1 Hour)
    • Children create their own perfume in a tub, using natural items they find, lying around.
    • E.g. Flowers, leaves and a bit of water crushed together
    "Not a stick" (1-2 Hours)
    • Children are read the book " Not a Stick"
    • Children then get the opportunity to collect some sticks and use their imagination to create a poster using those sticks and turning them into anything they like.
  • Map
    WESSA Umgeni Valley Nature Reserve Map compressed thumb
  • Feedback from Schools
    "Very informative ‐ course content in depth ‐ efective teaching strategy ‐ pupils were at liberty to express
    thoughts ‐ staf were well equipped ‐ trails were adventurous, tiring but enjoyable!" Temple Valley Secondary
    "The staf are extremely capable leaders and foster a good relationship with the girls, while maintaining con‐
    trol." Hilary Harris and Anne Immelman, St Mary's DSG, Kloof
    "We are extremely impressed with the entire programme. All the guides related well to the pupils. Their
    knowledge is comprehensive." Sue Grove, The Wykeham Collegiate