Tag Archives: Team AoC (Team Art of Conservation)

Singing for Gorillas – 2013 Children’s Performance Preparations at Art of Conservation

From Julie Ghrist

Art of Conservation is preparing for our 2013 children’s performances with music written and recorded by musicians Kaiser Cartel. Please watch our video below, thanks!

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Preparations for 2013 children’s performances at Art of Conservation

That’s What It’s All About – Children Wanting to Learn

Hi, Eusebe here. We started our 2012 conservation and health education program this week with very excited and engaged kids. Before we knew it, Valerie had already greeted our new students and had them standing in a circle observing personal space. Not quite sure how she managed that so quickly, but she did! Soon Valerie was asking the kids to raise their left hand high above their heads, then asked them to put their left hand in the circle, then pull their hand out of the circle… soon the music started and an extremely delighted group of boys and girls were doing the Hokey Pokey with smiles and laughter. Icebreaker to set a standard of a safe and fun learning environment is what we call it…. and that’s what it’s all about!

Doing the Hokey Pokey.  Art of Conservation 2012Can you spot Valerie amongst all of our new students?

Kids in their uniforms – girls in blue and boys in khaki – surround Valerie as they learn English vocabulary such as left, right, hand, foot, hip, head, and shake.

Innocent the actor.  Art of Conservation 2012Innocent acts out different ways of speaking to others. Here he is covering his face and mumbling. It is soon agreed upon by the children that this way is not the best way.

Our 2012 AoC students start the program curiously and attentively. They seem to be committed to learn new things every day.

New students listening intently.  Art of Conservation 2012Children familiarize themselves with new materials brought by Team AoC for them to handle. Look at them sharing the gorilla stuffed toy. So kind and gentle.

My team members and I introduce ourselves and share with the children what they can expect from our year of learning together.

'Our year together'  Art of Conservation 2012Eric, Olivier, I, Innocent, and Valerie share a bit about ourselves with our new students.

Making Briquettes = Making Money

Happy Holidays! Innocent here with my last blog of 2011. At AoC, when the year is reaching its end and our students are on vacation, my team members and I tend to office business, research, and even taking it a bit easy. I also take more time with Cecile and her family, our Save The Forests Briquette Initiative partner, discussing topics that we cover with our students in the classrooms. Realistically speaking, briquette-making requires teamwork. For instance, there has to be someone in charge of pushing down the handle of the press, another person getting the briquettes out of the PVC pipe, and yet another person in charge of taking them to the drying table, etc. That’s why I dedicated my last 2011 discussion with Cecile and her family to teamwork. I also chose this topic because Cecile and AoC achieved a lot this year which couldn’t have happened if we hadn’t worked as a team.

Cecile's daughter Monique as the family's accountant!  Save The Forests Briquette Initiative.  AoC 2011After selling two sacks of briquettes, the family appoints Cecile’s oldest daughter Monica as the family’s treasurer. See Monica counting the money! What trust!

I asked this great family if they value the teamwork spirit that is so prevalent amongst them and they were like yes!

Rwandan Francs earned from briquette income generating initiative.  Art of Conservation 2011With great pleasure, each and every family member is delighted to touch and feel the money earned from making and selling briquettes!

Cecile and her family make briquettes mainly to protect the environment and, of course, to make some money for the family to live on.

Making money by making briquettes.  Art of Conservation 2011.Amazing! 10 notes of 1,000 frw each per 10 family members!

The entire family is quite happy because of this briquette money and they are really committed to make more briquettes and earning more money. I hope this blog will make you all look at the year 2012 we are starting soon with a sense of hope. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year dear readers! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year dear Cecile and your family!

Valerie with more on PASA’s 2011 Educators Workshop

Hi all, Valerie again with my latest reporting on my recent trip to Uganda to attend PASA’s Educators Workshop. PASA’s workshop for sanctuary educators was also assisted by the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund. This workshop brought together many PASA primate sanctuary representatives within Africa plus invited organizations which work in environmental education areas. Every participant returned home with great ideas about what he or she experienced.

Muddy road in Uganda.  PASA Education Workshop.  2011Juliet Price from the Jane Goodall Institute – South Africa and Amy Hanna returning from a site visit at a family participating in CSWCT’s “Change My Community” program. Very muddy!

During this visit we saw an energy efficient stove built by Aidah, a secondary school student living there. Building materials included cow dung, kitchen ash, and termite mound dirt. We enjoyed this visit because it inspired us all on what he or she can do to mitigate overharvesting of wood as timber in order to increase the animal habitat. On our return from the visit, our bus got stuck and people had to go out so that it could escape the muddy area. Juliet and Amy were like “Wow! This is fun!”

Learning about sample garden at PASA Education Workshop-Uganda 2011.School teachers and their principal show us the vegetable garden growing at Kyamalera Wildlife Education Center.

I enjoyed meeting the students and teachers who have participated in the CSWCT “Change My Community” program. They go to the center to learn about environmental protection, wildlife and ecosystem, and other related matter. They also learn about what to do to solve problems facing animals living in the forests. Regarding the protection of the environment, children demonstrated how they made an energy saving stove, tree grafting, composting, and liquid fertilizer production. All of these activities help them to choose their vocation when they are out of the school or when an adult so that can help in their lives. I was so impressed by how these kids were so engaged in environmental protection!

In the forest.  PASA Education Workshop 2011.I am resting by a beautiful tree during our walk through the Itohya forest in Uganda- Hoima District.

At Itohya Forest, my new friends and I trekked to see chimpanzees in their natural habitat. Something good and funny is that we only saw ants which disturbed all of us but certainly part of our adventure. Oh, and we did see a knuckle print of a chimp and a Columbus Monkey which was far away from us and making it difficult to take photos! Wow! It was so good to explore this natural habitat and see the components of it.

Wonderful hospitality at PASA's Education Workshop in Uganda.  2011I pose for a last photo with Grace from KonTiki Hotel and Mr. Sliver from Ngamba Island.

The PASA Educators Workshop was important to each of the participants. We all got an equal chance to share what we do and learn from each other. We also returned home with exciting ideas to tell. I thank very much the PASA and Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund for offering Art of Conservation this great opportunity as to be part of the workshop.

Amy Joins The AoC Team!

I am pleased to announce that I have joined the Art of Conservation (AoC) team as the organization’s new Director of Development. I am excited about this opportunity, as I will be leading the effort to increase AoC’s funding base, while promoting the organization’s mission and programs.

Amy with AoC staff. Rwanda. AoC 2011AoC staff meeting during Amy’s March visit. Pictured above: Amy, Olivier, Eric, Innocent, Valerie, and Eusebe.

When I learned about AoC’s conservation and health education initiatives in Rwanda, I immediately knew that I wanted to get involved in the cause. I have a strong passion for and background in conservation education. I also have experience working in great ape range countries. I most recently provided leadership in managing programs and operations with the Bonobo Conservation Initiative.

Amy with a student at Nyange Primary School. AoC 2011Working with AoC’s conservation and health education students at Nyange Primary School.

Last March during my visit to Rwanda, I saw first-hand the organization’s programs in action and was inspired by the effect this dedicated team is having in providing innovative learning activities for students at primary schools bordering Volcanoes National Park, home of the mountain gorilla.

With community singers and dancers.  AoC 2011An afternoon with community dancers and singers in the Northern Province, Rwanda.

I am proud to join Art of Conservation and look forward with enthusiasm to applying my skills and experience to the organization.

Dian Fossey Site: The Destruction of Wars

Hi. This is Innocent again with more on my recent visit to the Dian Fossey site. For Team AoC and I, our trek to this historic place in Volcanoes National Park is timely as we are now preparing lessons that will focus more and more on the flora, fauna, and those who have played a pivotal role in protecting this forest.

Innocent & Guide Felix at the remains of Karisoki Workers' House.  AoC 2011Once we reached Karisoke Research Center’s earliest site and marveled at the beauty of the natural surroundings we were struck by seeing only the remnants of buildings. Guide Felix told us they were destroyed during the 1994 war! Here I am with Felix at the Karisoke Research Centre Staff House.

In our forthcoming classes, we will ask our students to share folklore they’ve heard from their elders regarding Dian Fossey and the gorillas she loved so much. We have come to realize thus far, that Dian Fossey – the mountain gorilla conservation pioneer – is undeniably deeply integrated in local legends. Proof comes in many forms, such as names Dian Fossey is referred to. For instance, Nyiramacibiri (in Kinyrwanda) meaning “the woman who lives alone on the mountain” and Mukecuru meaning “the old woman.” This is only a start, much more wonderful lore abounds.

Dian Fossey's original cabin as seen in early National Geographic articles.  AoC 2011.Eric, Julie, Olivier, Eusebe, and I standing at the site of Dian Fossey’s original cabin as seen in early National Geographic articles. As you can see, only the crumbling foundation is preserved.

During our hike, I wanted to know why Dian Fossey was buried inside the forest and not in her town of birth, San Francisco, California. Felix, our RDB guide, told me that someone came across a written document by Dian Fossey after her 1985 murder which stated her wishes to be buried in the forest next to her beloved Digit, her favorite gorilla who had been killed by poachers.

Olivier, Amy, Innocent, & Eric at Dian Fossey's cabin (She affectionately named it the "Mausoleum")Olivier, Amy, Eric and I standing at the remnants of Dian Fossey’s cabin she affectionately called The Mausoleum.

Being at this site together with my team and hearing testimonies from others allows me to better understand Dian Fossey’s statement, “I feel more comfortable with gorillas than people.” Honoring this opportunity to ‘walk in her footsteps’ I grow every more respectful and amazed by this tremendous woman.

I will keep informing you about this wonderful visit in an upcoming blog. Please stay tuned.

Dian Fossey Site: The Hike

Innocent here. Recently, Team AoC and I visited the historic Karisoke Research Center founded by Dian Fossey in 1967. This site is located in the saddle between volcanoes Karisimbi and Bisoke in Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda.
Innocent beginning the hike to Dian Fossey site in The Virunga Massif. AoC 2011After registering and paying for our permits at the park and tourism headquarters in Kinigi, we drive to our drop off point at the foothills of Bisoke. I am here with children we meet along the way before we reach the forest.

Bisoke is 3711 meters in altitude with a beautiful crater lake at the top. We will follow our guide Felix Shyamba to the west of Bisoke up through local villages and cultivated farm land before we reach the protected forest.

Pyrethrum drying in the sun.  AoC 2011 near The Virungas.This is a picture of the Chrysanthemum plant drying on a plastic mat in front of a small house we pass by on our way to the park.

Much of the park land was turned over to pyrethrum farms. Pyrethrum is the extract from the flowerhead of the Chrysanthemum plant (looks like a daisy) which is processed to kill insects. Dian Fossey campaigned hard to stop the deforestation caused by such farms.

Porter Betty, Amy, and Eusebe making the ascent to the Dian Fossey Site. AoC 2011Our hired porter, Betty, with Amy and Eusebe.

The photograph above of my colleagues and porter Betty is a good example of the Chrysanthemum plant as well as rows of Irish potatoes. No doubt these are pretty fields with cattle often seen out on their short grazing break, but it is also very apparent that these fields are pressing ever harder up to the park boundary.

Innocent & Eusebe on top of the buffalo wall entering Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda.  AoC 2011Eusebe and I are on top of the ‘Buffalo Wall’. We are now entering the forest!

After a beautiful hike, we reach the mid-way point. Veering in one direction one would make their way up to Bisoki Crater Lake, but wanting to stay on goal we took the other fork in the path and continued our trek to the renowned Dian Fossey Site at 2967 meters in altitude.

At 2967 meters. Dian Fossey Site in The Virungas.  Team AoC. 2011I am pictured here at our mid-way point with Eric, Amy, Julie, Guide Felix, Olivier, and Eusebe. Valerie, our other colleague, was unable to be with us on this day.

Please stay with me as we venture into the site of the lone woman of the forest, Dian Fossey, also known as Nyiramachabelli. Thanks and see you next time, Innocent.

Two Languages & Teamwork

Hi Readers. This is Innocent with a brief look at our teaching methods. The Rwandan government switched to English as a medium of instruction at all education levels – French and Kinyarwanda being the previous languages of instruction – so this is why we teach in English followed by Kinyarwanda translation.

At least two AoC team members are teaching at any one time. This is where teamwork comes in, both teacher and translator must communicate well with each other so that the accurate information is passed on to our students. At AoC, we’ve perfected this art.

Innocent translating for Harriet as a student looks on. Art of Conservation 2011.Here I am translating for Harriet as a student looks on during an art lesson.

My team members and I alternate roles between teaching and translating. Though only two of us may be involved in teaching, other team members may assist in distributing learning materials and lending a helping hand whenever needed.

Innocent translates for Eusebe.  English to Kinyarwanda.  AoC 2011Eusebe is leading the lesson and I’m translating for him.

Not only do we foster team spirit amongst ourselves but we also encourage our students to do the same. Recently, we had students try yoga poses that involve teamwork.

Teaching with AoC involves teamwork.  Rwanda 2011.AoC team members assist kids with yoga exercises. Please click here for more on that class, it was great.

Sometimes we act out short skits as a fun way of learning.

AoC team acts out skits for children.  Rwanda.  2011.Eric, Olivier and I act out a skit on good and bad manners. We encourage the kids to be respectful to all.

Weekend Conservation Lessons with Tennis Players & Runners

About once a month, the AoC team gives short conservation lessons to the children tennis players and runners. Gathered on the grass next to the tennis courts, we focus on AoC’s Code of Conduct.
Olivier discusses with children. Art of Conservation with Ibirunga Tennis & Running Club in Musanze Town, Rwanda.Olivier, Valerie, Eric, and Innocent begin the mornings lesson by asking the kids, “What does sharing mean to you?”

We encourage the kids to tell us examples of sharing, being honest, discovering, learning, respecting.

Innocent encourages the children to share their thoughts. Art of Conservation Rwanda 2011.Innocent urges the children to contribute to the discussion. Some of the kids are so shy!

Ibirunga Tennis & Running Club - AoC lesson.  Rwanda, 2011.Olivier, Mani, Evariste, and Jean Bosco check out their new AoC notebook.

Happy with tennis and notebooks. Art of Conservation. Musanze Town, Rwanda. 2011Assumpta is pleased about her notebook and Let’s Play Tennis by Andy Ace, written and illustrated by Patricia Egart.

Learning about AoC;s Code of Conduct.  Discussions with kids at Ibirunga Tennis & Running Club in Musanze Town, Rwanda.  Harriet, pictured here at the lower left corner, with the tennis players and runners.

A sweet group of kids. They are working hard in school, improving their tennis game, practicing etiquette on and off the court, and really excited about meeting other players during tournaments. Perhaps Kigali, the capital city, will be our first destination.

Harriet Gets Introduced to AoC Staff

Harriet Says:

It’s the first time I am in Rwanda and I am very excited to be here. So this morning after settling down at my new place of residence, I met Valerie (unfortunately she may not appear in any of the pictures today) with whom we took a walk to the AoC offices.

It’s almost like being in a movie, you know those places where you’re all free to work without strict bosses (am not saying Julie is not strict) breathing down your neck and the environment is just relaxed and am sure productivity is high because you’re comfortable working where you are.

Harriet's first day at AoC.Yep, that’s me

After Julie showed me around the place (the offices, the stores, the garden….), we had lunch and then a staff meeting in the afternoon. I look forward to working here for who knows how long? (hint hint…. I like working here already)

Harriet with Team AoC for first staff meeting.  Art of Conservation 2011Ibyiza was kind to join us in the meeting (she took Julie’s chair) and Eric got distracted by Umulinzi, Eusebe was doodling under the table, while Olivier emphasizes a point to attentive Innocent. Meanwhile, I posed. Then Julie cropped the top of Valerie’s head so it’s up to you to imagine where she may have been sitting when this photo was taken.