Not only do we work with amazing Earthchildren, but our living classroom teachers are the ones who actually make our work possible. I had the luck to interview some of our star teachers. First out is Hayley Robertson, a dedicated teacher and environmentalist who does not hesitate to bring her class’ worm farm home for the holidays to keep it running. I have had the luck to meet and talk to her several times during my time in South Africa. Hayley really gives so much energy back to her students as well to the Earthchild Project team!
“Earthchild Project brings the world into the classroom…” – Hayley Robertson
How have you been involved with Earthchild Project? I came to Harmony Primary School 16 years ago. Harmony had a little environmental club running and when the teacher who was responsible for it retired, I took over.
I grew up in Botswana and Zimbabwe. My father was interested in nature, my mother was interested in animals and things like that. The school is totally different to here [South Africa] so we got exposed to nature more. I always liked nature and when I started here we used to go to a lot of workshops. I met Xoli [Environmental Education Facilitator, ECP] at one workshop and I asked her to come and visit our school and then eventually she did. Then Earthchild Project joined our school and took part in my environmental club. I really love Earthchild. They do so much.
How has Earthchild Project evolved according to you? I think ECP has been here now for five years. I like the fact that they get a lot more children involved. The children like that and ECP teaches them life skills. Linci [Yoga Facilitator, ECP] teaches them personal things such as hygiene, to talk about yourself and how to behave properly. They’ve done more than just environmental things.
I think a lot of the children also have a different attitude when Linci and the others speak to them. These children just live; and they exist; and they come to school; and they go home; and they sleep; and they make a noise; and they come back to school; and nobody has time for them. So I think Earthchild plays a big part in that. Taking the time to listen to the children. When you’re a teacher you’ve got so many things to do, you’ve got to teach a syllabus, you’ve got to rush here, rush there. You discipline children and you don’t have time to talk to them. It’s just school, school work, school work. That’s why I like the Earthchild Project because it teaches the students something else. Earthchild Project brings the world into the classroom for them. The children don’t know animals but they love it when you talk about it.
You already touched upon it a little bit but have you seen some type of change in the students you have taught? Oh yes, the attitudes have changed especially of those that go to yoga. I think Linci has a way of changing them or calming them down. Also, if you walk around the school yard you’ll hear the children from the environmental club saying “pick up that paper, you’re not allowed to throw papers”. They know a bit more and I think it’s thanks to Earthchild Project and the environmental teachers here. I wish environmental studies were part of the syllabus here.
What does Earthchild Project mean to you as a Living Classroom teacher? Earthchild is something that came into the children’s lives that made a difference. As I said with attitudes, with their whole behavior towards their fellow beings, towards the school environment and all that has changed. The children love it. Some of the children really really enjoy going [to yoga and environmental club] and those who don’t, we don’t make them go if they don’t want to. But I always say, if you teach 50 children, and at least four appreciate what you do and carry it over. Then it spreads. So I think Earthchild is helping to spread the word.
The interview was filled with heartfelt laughter and I felt so inspired by this smart and funny woman. Above all, I felt inspired about what she said. The stories she told about the changes she sees in the children makes me feel so very hopeful about the future!
Interview & Photos by Amanda Norrlander, Intern