Towards the end of 2016 I attended the Mountain Club of Cape Town’s Leaders training weekend at Du Toitskloof Hut for their Outreach Program. The weekend was a lot of fun and I learnt a great deal. But one session in particular stood out for me – the one on Fynbos with Wendy Hitchcock . I decided to record what stood out for me in the session in the hopes that I could reuse some of the techniques myself in future. Below is a description of the session as best I could remember it.
Session with Wendy Hitchcock on Fynbos
When we arrived for the session Wendy started by introducing herself and then asking us to sit quietly for a few moments and take note of the sounds and smells around us in Nature. She also had a collection of plants she had picked from the nearby bushes, together with large sheets of paper with labels like Big Leaves , Small Leaves , Waxy Leaves etc.
Our first task as a group was to sort through the collection of plants and put them onto the piece of paper that corresponded to their main characteristic. Wendy suggested techniques to determine these characteristics like blindfolding a group member while asking them to touch and describe a plant or smelling a plant and describe its smell and so on … It was a really sensory experience and I cant remember being quite as observant about plants before. We continued on like this for a while sorting the various plants into categories.
Some of the plants wouldn’t fit neatly into any particular category and so were placed into an unsure category. After the initial sorting was done, Wendy initiated a conversation about the sorting and then continued on to the topic of how to classify things. Names such as Restios, Geophytes , Proteas , Ericas and lots of terms I was only vaguely familiar with were introduced. For someone who hikes a lot, I have been pretty uninterested in plants and this informative session really changed my basic outlook. I really got a sense of the adaption of plants to their environments and how interesting they are. Wendy then allowed us to write up any questions we had about plants onto sheets of paper and addressed them in conversation with the group.
Our last activity was to go on a walk and observe the different plants we had discussed. Wendy had brought along field lenses that allowed us to look at plants on a much smaller scale. Most of them were just inexpensive jewelry lenses but showed remarkable detail once you help them up close to a plant. I liked them so much I bought one on the spot from her.
I really wasn’t expecting to enjoy the session as much as I did and it really highlighted the effect that an Educator can have on a group when they are extremely knowledgeable and passionate about their subject matter. I really liked how the whole session was done outside under the trees and how natural learning in that environment felt. I feel challenge to get my classes outside more to create some similar experiences.