With a beautiful game park on our doorstep, a strong conservation theme runs throughout the school, resulting in each of the classes having an opportunity to spend a night to a week away from school during the course of the year. The Grade 1s start taking advantage of the Peterhouse Group’s Educational Park “Gosho Park” and end up in their Grade 7 year at Rifa. Please refer to our Outdoor Education section to view the broad scope of our educational trips and outings.
Rifa is a bush camp on the mighty Zambezi, where the children experience the likes of game viewing, tree and bird walks, canoeing, target shooting, initiative tasks, game drives, boiling an egg in a sulphur pool, fishing and much more. There is also a Natural History Museum, the heart of the School Conservation theme, tucked away on the SVH campus
Interhouse Wildlife quizzes happen every month during the term and we participate in the Wildlife Environmental Zimbabwe Interschools quiz.
As part of the children’s syllabus in their Grade Seven year, a trip is organised for them to the Zimbabwe Hunters’ Association’s Educational/Conservation camp, RIFA, on the banks of the Zambezi River, 4km upstream from Chirundu. We find this the ideal climax to what the children have learnt about their environment and how to conserve it whilst they have been at Springvale House.
The children are housed in secure enclosures with a member of staff nearby. In addition five, professional hunters and a National Parks game guide are present. Expeditions are carried out in vehicles rather than on foot, and are confined to the floodplain rather than the thick jesse bush. Delicious, wholesome meals are prepared by the school caterers. Every effort is made to ensure the safety of the children at all times.
Our daily programme starts with some hot chocolate and biscuits, followed by the early morning activities. We have a cyclic approach to the activities and by the end of the trip, every child would have completed everything Rifa has to offer. The first session includes basic First Aid, bird identification, tracking, fishing or a hike up to the hollow baobab. The groups are of a manageable size and are accompanied by a teacher or teachers, and a Professional Hunter or Guide. During the various activities, the children may also come across a scorpion, an animal skeleton, or they may even have a dung-spitting competition!
After breakfast, the second session includes target practice with pellet guns, tying various knots, tree identification, collecting specimens from an aquatic environment, initiative tests and, the high light for the vast majority of the children, canoeing on the Zambezi River down to the bridge at Chirundu. The canoes are led by Professional Canoe Guides and an adult accompanies every canoe. Two motorboats, with a Professional Hunter in each, accompany the canoes whilst they row downstream, guiding them and helping where necessary.
After lunch, the programme is more flexible to allow a degree of flexibility that may happen in the bush at any given moment – the wildlife have not read our programme, so don’t always ‘come to the party’! In this third session, the activities include an impala dissection, vulture watch, ‘Visitors to a Tree’, ‘Don’t Move That Log’, bush craft (making traps, fire and string from the bark of a baobab) and art, where the children are only allowed to use what they can collect from the environment. If the river is low, we try to find a safe pool of water where the children can cool off and just have fun – of course, the legendary ‘Mud Fight’ on the last afternoon is another highlight of the trip. Sunsets on the Zambezi River are a definite must!
In the evenings, again the programme is flexible. A number of activities are planned where the children play Bush Bingo or an environmental competition, spelling game, crosswords, night game drive, star gazing, singing, listening to stories, group war cries and of course, roasting marshmallows around the fire!
In their Grade Five year, the children go on their annual trip to the Lowveld. On their first day, they board a Peterhouse bus and travel down to their first night’s accommodation at Great Zimbabwe, just outside Masvingo.
The following morning is spent soaking up history in the ruins and the Great Zimbabwe museum, and taking a thrilling walk across Kyle Dam Wall. From there the children are taken to the Hakamela bushcamp, part of the Malilangwe conservancy, their base for the rest of their trip.
Having soaked up some of Zimbabwe’s ancient history, the focus of the trip now turns to conservation. To ensure their safety, the children are accompanied wherever they go by professional hunters and guides, and by the scouts provided by Malilangwe. These people also greatly enrich the children’s experience by teaching them bushcraft and pointing out things that might otherwise go unobserved.
The children go on bush walks each morning, and there are several game drives on the agenda. They investigate aquatic ecosystems in the Chiredzi River and they study some of the skulls and bones available at the bushcamp’s ‘schoolroom’. They are shown around Malilangwe’s captive breeding centre and are taught about the importance of conserving Zimbabwe’s wildlife and wild areas.
Group effort and team work is also developed in the children, both in their day-to-day activities and in their exciting evening competition events.
A different route is taken on the way home; this time up along the eastern side of the country. The children get to walk across the Birchenough Bridge before heading home via Mutare. After all the first-hand experiences, they arrive back at school armed with a much better knowledge of their country’s agriculture, history and wildlife resources.
In the third term, the Grade 4’s embark on an adventure to Lasting Impressions in Kadoma. It is a beautiful camp that sits on a hill overlooking Claw Dam.
The Grade 4s leave on Wednesday and arrive at their destination around lunch time. On arrival they are introduced to the instructors and are shown where they will be staying for the next two nights.
Whilst at Lasting Impressions, the children follow an environmental programme whereby they learn about the environment and have to look after our surroundings. As well as learning, the children have lots of fun partaking in exciting activities such as canoeing and archery.
They also delight in swimming in the amazing pool! The children are well looked after by the capable instructors and thoroughly enjoy their trip to Lasting Impressions.
Towards the end of the second term, the Grade Three class goes on their annual trip to Imire Game Park. The bus trip is about an hour and a half and is a fun, noisy and song filled one.
The children are based at Bushcamp, which is situated near a beautiful dam and a large granite kopje called Castle Kopje.
The children are supervised by a game scout at all times. Morris, who was our guide this year, was outstanding, and the children loved him. He took the children on game walks and drives, while giving them all the information they needed to learn about Imire.
The children were taken to the river to spend time exploring the aquatic habitats. To be able to catch crabs, tadpoles and other mini beasts was a highlight of the trip.
Morris took the children to walk with the elephants and they were able to feed the black rhino from a naturally-made boma. This was an amazingly unique experience for them all!
Great fishing fun was had by the boys this year. They were determined, and had Morris up and fishing by sunrise. The cheetah and nyala graced us with their presence near our camp, and the monkeys were there, too, to make sure the children kept their tents closed!
The children spend two nights at Imire learning about conservation with the help of Mrs Raynor and the Imire guides.
The trip back is a quieter one, with most children asleep after three busy days out in the Zimbabwean sun.
Every year in September, we take the Grade 1s on a one night “camping” outing to Gosho Park, our conservation park right next door to Springvale House. It is a wonderful introduction to the outdoor/conservation trips that we offer to the upper grades, as it is sometimes the first opportunity for many children to spend a night away from home. The children sleep in the dormitories at Bush Camp and there is always great excitement as they set up their own sleeping area. Mrs Penny Raynor, our conservation expert, takes the children for early evening and morning walks and shows them lots of interesting aspects of conservation.
In the evening, the children cook their own sausages and marshmallows before the highlight of the evening, which is playing ‘Jack, Jack, shine your light’ with Mr Martin, the headmaster. We watch the animals feeding right next to Bush Camp before breakfast and then have a chance to explore and climb the wonderful rocks around the camp before heading back to school.
This is a very worthwhile outing for all the children. They all love the experience and learn much from it, both socially and from the conservation point of view.