Guide to setting up a Conservation Club or Junior Rangers Program at your kids school

Guide to setting up a Conservation Club or Junior Rangers Program at your kids school

Step by step guide with all the materials and information you need to get started with an Environmental Club or Junior Ranger Program at your kid's school.

Do you have that burning desire to do something to make a difference or give back? So did I, it all started with a trip to a local conservation area in Limpopo province just a short drive from Johannesburg in South Africa. On a local weekend break away from the hustle and bustle of the city life, we rented a home in the reserve. The resort offered game drives, tours through their wildlife rehabilitation and self-drive game viewing. The activity that would bring the most excitement was the Junior Rangers program they provided.

My son and daughter enjoyed the activities so much we almost did not see them for the entire holiday. The volunteered at the rehabilitation centre and went other extra activities on offer. Back in the city after the weekend I started researching for a junior ranger program on offer but was disappointed to find that National Parks put their plan on hold and not much else was available. Little did I know that the inspiration to start such a program at my kid's school would change my life, and the program would be featured at the IUCN World Parks Congress, Sydney for inspiring the new generation.

Program design

In short, the program consisted of monthly environmental and conservation activities. The monthly meetings included activities the children need to take part in to earn badges. The modelled the badges system on a scout type program, but we focussed purely on conservation initiatives. The monthly meetings included activities like zoo campouts, conservation area hikes, reptile park visits, bird ringing and invader plant removal.

IUCN World Parks Congress

The IUCN World Parks Congress is a landmark global forum on protected areas. The Congress shares knowledge and innovation, setting the agenda for protected areas conservation for the decade to come. Building on the theme "Parks, people, planet: inspiring solutions", the IUCN World Parks Congress 2014 discussed and created original approaches for conservation and development, helping to address the gap in the conservation and sustainable development agenda.
I found that due to the availability of specialists at these conservation areas it minimised the learning required for the parents and myself. Most of the parks provided programs for kids and had resources dedicated to education, which made it easy to arrange for the little rangers to have a truly immersive experience without having to plan a wide diversity of activities myself.
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Parent Involvement

The way we designed the program we opted to have parent involvement. In today's fast-paced world the parents have very little time to spend quality time with their children. I was just such a parent and saw this activity as an opportunity to spend more time with my kids, and I wanted to offer this to other parents too. It had the desired effect, parent involvement became vital, we had a photographer mom who did the PR, we had parents getting involved in graphic design, some helped with admin and most came along to enjoy activities with their kids.

School permission

Before you attempt to create such a club at your school, I would suggest that you get permission from the school. My experience doing this was exceptionally positive. The headmaster was very positive about the idea and offered support in the communication to the students. We created a form that the kids could take home and show their parents. On acceptance, the parents provided their email address and further communication was direct to the parents and new kids joined via word of mouth.
“I loved spending time with my friends in nature, especially loved the camping and nature reserve tours”

Guide Liability

While doing my research to develop the program, I discovered that as a guide, teacher or parent taking kids out into the wild I might be putting myself at risk in case of an unforeseen accident. By using the experts for the various activities, this liability is less. It is, however, possible to get qualified as a nature guide, which is the route I opted to take. FGASA (Field Guides Association o South Africa) provides qualifications that prepare you for taking guests into the conservation areas. To get qualified they offer study material and support. The program includes a theoretical and practical element, after which you need to complete the first aid qualification before you are allowed to accompany guests.
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Materials required

You truly need very little to start a program like this, but it adds to the excitement for the kids if you formalise some of the aspects of the club.
- Ranger shirts - the kids, find it so exciting to feel like a real ranger.
- Ranger badge - to make it official.
- Logbooks - to record specific details of the kid's activities.
- Badges - So exciting to achieve badges.
- Nature guide books - It adds to the excitement to bring them along.
Planning the activities, you will need to do some administrative tasks which may include the following.
- RSVP and payment system to keep track of attendance
- Whatsapp group to coordinate the activities
- Attendance list for the activities
- Indemnities for the activities
Adriaan Buys
Adriaan BuysConservationMag
Founder of ConservationMag, Studying expansive conservation management strategy in a world of short term human needs. Researcher, Lecturer, PhD Student