The Kinderwildnis is a joint project of the eThekwini Municipality, the Inanda Seminary (a private boarding school for girls) and the Free Hanseatic City of Bremen. The grounds of Inanda Seminary will be enlarged to include a large, environmentally sensitive green space that will be developed and managed as a Kinderwildnis: a place where children learn and play in nature. This educational and leisure facility will serve users from the seminary as well as students from nearby schools and other local groups. Since the seminary’s property is located near the source of the Ghoboghobo River (which flows into the uMhlangane catchment), the Kinderwildnis project contributes to the preservation of water quality, biodiversity, reduction of waste disposal in the river, and increased awareness of these topics among the local population.
The development of this nature space in Durban is modelled on Bremen’s own NGO-run inner-city Kinderwildnis, which offers an early-childhood development programme centered on activities and games “in the wild” for primary and secondary school children. In the Kinderwildnis, children have the chance to experience nature and to develop their social, physical and cognitive abilities in an open, green space. In Durban, this model will be extended to serve the educational and recreational needs of teenagers and high school students. The pedagogical concept for the Kinderwildnis will be designed in a consultative process that draws on the environmental education expertise of Bremen stakeholders. The consultations will include short exchange visits, longer phases accompanied by retired experts (Senior Expert Service), and work shadowing opportunities in Bremen for practitioners from Durban.
Having fun in and with nature-that is a key ingredient in helping children to recognise that the natural environment is important and does us good. There is no substitute for direct contact with nature; newspaper, radio and TV cannot offer the same rich experience. And for many people, even basic knowledge of plant and animal habitats is often lacking. Environmental education aims to fill this gap with consciously designed activities set in natural outdoor spaces. Preschool and elementary school-age children are especially enthusiastic about nature experiences, as we have seen every day in the Kinderwildnis in Bremen.
A place where children can play freely in a natural environment is an important yet typically missing feature of urban and suburban areas. At the Inanda Seminary in Durban, children and young people from disadvantaged areas such as KwaMashu will get the opportunity to explore, touch and smell nature. They will be able to play with natural, locally available materials as they discover and learn.
As an actively used environmental education facility, the Kinderwildnis will enable children to build an emotional connection with their natural environment, so that they may grow into environmentally conscious citizens. The early childhood education programme and educational activities for young people are an opportunity to raise their awareness of climate change mitigation and adaptation, and of the individual contributions they can make.
At Inanda Seminary, students are required to collect “social skill” points. The Kinderwildnis gives them a chance to do that in novel ways. For example, students in the secondary school can organise their own workshops on environmental topics like animals in the meadow or life in the stream, and offer them to children from nearby primary schools. Through activities like these, students get mentorship opportunities, and children of different age levels from the surrounding areas get rewarding experiences.