Category Archives: Nature Explorers

Scouts day out at the Sanctuary and Heritage Garden

On Friday 24 a group of scouts visited the wetland, Sanctuary at Roche Caiman, and Heritage Garden courtesy of the scout movement and as part of a scout camp for the August holidays.

Every school holiday, the  Seychelles Scouts Association prepares a special programme for children, which involves both scouts and children from the community. The programme is designed to get children off the streets during the school holidays to come together for five days of learning, fellowship and adventure. As part of their five-day activities they participated in Nature Seychelles programmes that use nature therapy on this Friday afternoon. 10 scouts, 4 leaders and 39 children who are not scouts participated. Robin (the green health coordinator) Martin, our community coordinator and Lucina (at the Heritage Garden) planned and carried out all the activities which involved working in the garden and sanctuary and green exercise.

Fun and games  in the outdoors are the basis for green exercise

Activities included stripping the backs off of Cassuarina poles to be used in the Sanctuary for the bird hide, and learning how to pot seedlings and turn over compost  in the garden. Robin even had some of the children moving frog tadpoles, which had made a home in holes dug up for plants, to the safety of the Sanctuary’s ponds. This had the children knee deep in mud and screeching in delight.

Mud is fun!

In the garden, they learnt the names and uses of all the plants. It was amazing to see how much they already knew about some of the local plants particularly spices like Cinnamon and Curry leaf and fruit trees like Soursop, Sugar apple, Star fruit and Golden apple.

Learning how to pot seedlings

Katherine, a volunteer who teaches exercises, introduced some green exercise in one of the clearings in the Sanctuary. Children and leaders all participated and she even had the children devising their own games. It was a Friday afternoon well spent for both visitors and staff.

Let’s go to Cousin: students discover a biological treasure

befriending one of the island's Aldabra giant tortoises

If you are a student who likes wildlife and nature then spending a day in the outdoors rather in class must be exciting. And so it was for two groups of students who visited Cousin Island Special Reserve. The students were from the International School on Praslin, and the Banyan Tree Wildlife Club from the Anse Etoile School in Mahe. They spent their mornings on a tour of the island, interacting with staff and volunteers, learning about the biodiversity on the island  and helping to remove invasive species. Their experience on the island was perhaps best summed up by one of the students, Kelly, who said of the visit, “we were supposed to have maths!”

Banyan Tree Wildlife Club, so called after a 100 year old Banyan Tree in the Anse Etoile school compound, are already nature and wildlife enthusiasts. Altogether 33 children, aged between 8 to 17 accompanied by their teachers visited the island. The students said they wanted to become better informed about the species endemic to their country like Seychelles Magpie robins and Seychelles warblers which can be seen on Cousin.

They also  wanted to learn more about nature reserves themselves; how they function as biodiversity hotspots and their tourism attraction. Justus, 17, said he found his experience on the island very interesting and expressed the wish to work on a nature reserve in the future.

The other students were curious about what it is like to do hands-on conservation: “What birds have you touched?” they asked the wardens. Yannick, 11, said he was very interested in the giant tortoises, and wanted to find out where they nest and why they rest for such long periods. Judelca was also quite fond of the tortoises but less so of the millipedes, while Sheila fell in love with the birds on the island, particularly the white-tailed tropicbirds. Coming from Mahe, the students were also curious to find out how life is on an island. They wanted to know how the social life of the wardens differs from theirs.

The International School  students said that the proximity of Cousin to Praslin made it relatively convenient to visit and more importantly the school felt the kids should be aware of conservation in their local area. During this visit they learnt about invasive plants and helped with the removal of Canavalia cathartica.

Its long been proved that time spent outdoors in nature is beneficial for children’s intellectual, social, physical and emotional stimulation. And these students certainly enjoyed their time on Cousin.

A natural solution to society’s problems

Children from the President's village at the Heritage Garden

Children from the President's village at the Heritage Garden

Children love being outdoors. Playing is great and is a chance to explore outside of the boundaries of the home. Not only is it fun for the kids, it’s good for them too. Scientists have discovered that children function better cognitively and emotionally in ‘green environments’, that is places with nature vegetation, than those without.  No wonder that a study of urban children discovered that 96% of them illustrated outdoor places when asked to make a map or drawing of all their favourite place.

Conversely, a lack of routine contact with nature can be detrimental to children’s health and may result in stunted academic and developmental growth. This condition has been termed Nature Deficit Disorder by author Richard Louv in his book Last Child in the Woods. Louv says we have entered a new era of city- centred life that restricts outdoor play, in conjunction with a plugged-in culture that draws kids indoors. But, Louv argues that, the agrarian, nature-oriented existence hard-wired into human brains isn’t quite ready for the overstimulating environment we’ve carved out for ourselves. Some children adapt, but those who don’t develop symptoms including attention problems, obesity, anxiety, and depression.

Nature Seychelles’ Sanctuary at Roche Caiman is a great local green space which we use to tackle this problem head-on. Many children have visited and enjoyed the benefits of being outdoors. The most recent was a group of twenty-five children from the Presidents Village who were brought by local company Applebys Corporate Service Limited to enjoy a taste nature last weekend.

The children were taken on a tour of the nature reserve by Martin Varley, Community and Stakeholder Action Co-ordinator, where they had chance to watch wildlife at first hand and also take part in some fun games with strong environmental messages. They were also taken round the adjacent Heritage Garden which showcases a diverse range of traditionally grown Seychelles fruit, vegetables and medicinal herbs.

The experience on the reserve formed the basis of the second part of the visit which was led by Green Health Co-ordinator Robin Hanson, who used the animals on the reserve as a platform for a special natural exercise class for the children, another form of recreation with proven health and wellbeing benefits. The weather stayed kind and at the end of the morning the children were buzzing with excitement about their visit.

“We all know how good it is to be outside,” said Nature Seychelles CEO Nirmal Shah, “Kids are healthier and happier and with a good dose of exercise they can be stronger too. It’s great to be able to work with a local company like Appleby’s to provide a break for these kids from the President’s Village and show then what we have here at Roche Caiman. Everyone is a winner”.

We may not be able to prevent our children from suffering the impacts of our changing society, but it’s good to know that the remedy is close at hand.

This post first appeared in the Today in Seychelles newspaper.

Green health: reconnecting people with nature

Saturday July 2, 2011 marked another exciting milestone  for Nature Seychelles –  the official launching of Green Health Seychelles – our new and innovative programme. Attended by a cross section of Seychellois, residents, members and friends of Nature Seychelles, the launch held at the Sanctuary at Roche Caiman, introduced to the public the green health concept that uses nature to improve health.

Here is a slide show of the days events:

embedded by Embedded Video

YouTube DirektGreen Health Seychelles Launch

A full story on the launch is on our website.

Nature Explorers brings benefits to Children

When Robin Hanson is teaching the Nature Explorers class at Nature Seychelles it sounds exactly like what it is – children having fun. Who wouldn’t have fun jumping like a frog, standing like a tree, and balancing like a heron? Or walking on a fallen tree and listening to the sounds of nature? But apart from having fun the children are exploring their bodies and their minds while cultivating an empathy for nature.

Nature Explorers is part of the Nature Seychelles’ Green Health programme, which is combining yoga and fitness in natural surroundings with activities that help the environment.  Robin, a yoga teacher and conservationist started the programme mid-last year. And now he has began running a dynamic programme for children combining yoga, general fitness and self-discovery.

Classes increase flexibility, strength, discipline, confidence, general positivity and calmness. They encourage children to be ready to learn, create, and develop. “The children are of course having fun. But the core is education,” says Robin. “Children are generally more willing to learn. Adults you have to persuade to do handstands – children have to be persuaded to do the warm up first,” he quips.

A typical class allows for exploration and using one’s imagination. Everything is exercised – from eyes to arms and legs. And classes are non-competitive: every child works at the level they find themselves in. This builds self-esteem and confidence.

the props...

the props...

The setting of Nature Explorers classes within the Sanctuary at Roche Caiman helps in the discovery of nature and various natural materials lend themselves as ready tools to be used for classes. Robin has fashioned pieces of wood as balance beams, stepping stones, toad tokens, basically anything he and mainly the children can imagine to use them for to exercise and have fun. Learning the animal poses, where they live, how they move, how they live together also educates children about nature. Learning the other nature poses such as mountain increases awareness and appreciation of the wonderful healing world around us.

Nature Seychelles will soon be expanding this programme to include children from vulnerable environments.

Check out Robin’s  blog here: http://greenhealthseychelles.wordpress.com/