While Makhanda may seem far from the lights of South Africa’s bigger cities, there are some rather amazing benefits from being where we are. Once again, the Eastern Cape delivered some amazing opportunities for both fun and learning for our junior pupils through their recent grade excursions.

Not only is the Eastern Cape home to some of the finest wilderness areas in the country, but Makhanda itself lies at the heart of this with access to the coast and the mountain ranges of the Eastern Karoo uplands. There are not many places in South Africa with a greater variety of habitats right on their doorstep!

There is also nothing like a pandemic keeping us all at home on our devices to remind us of this fact.

Studies show that outdoor learning delivers many benefits — reducing stress, improving moods, boosting concentration, and increasing a child’s engagement at school even being a few of them (source).

Aside from that, where better to learn new things while appreciating the beauty of nature, than the great outdoors?

Alas, the pandemic has chased us indoors once again, but not before our Junior grades got their much-anticipated excursions in! Here is a recap of their Summer term excursions:

The Grade 7 class had the privilege of travelling to Die Lapa in the Somerset East area for a three-day camp; the Grade 6 classes enjoyed three wonderful days at Leaders in Life in Addo; the Grade 5 classes headed off for night away in Boknes and some beach trekking; and our Grade 3 pupils enjoyed a very exciting outing to the internationally awarded Shamwari Game Reserve and the Born Free Centre.

Grade 7: The focus of the camp was for the children to hone their leadership skills, strengthen relationships between themselves and to reinforce the benefits of teamwork. Their programme included a hike learning about the Karoo’s hardy flora and fauna, an obstacle course, with the children navigating their way through muddy challenges, and listening to a talk on character-building. Team-building activities also included a  greatly anticipated paintball challenge, and the potjiekos-making competition in the evening!

Grade 6: The schedule at Leaders in Life in Addo was jam-packed with activities ranging from survival skills, canoeing and an amazing race to a potjiekos competition and evening skits. The highlight for many was the famous Addo Adrenaline Zipline which is the highest, longest and fastest double zip line in South Africa.

Grade 5: Who knew a trip to the beach could offer so much? The Grade 5s learned about pirates, life on the ships, how canons worked, found out how to find freshwater, visited a KhoiSan historical site and hiked to Diaz Cross heritage site where they learned about Bartholomew Diaz, the famous Portuguese navigator and discoverer of the Cape.

The Grade 3: The Shamwari Private Game Reserve is home to vast herds of wildlife, birdlife and incredible ecological diversity and the Grade 3s were very lucky to see a variety of animals on a game drive, including a group of giraffe, and a close sighting of rhino, lions and elephant as well as visit the Born Free Big Cat Sanctuaries and Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre.