Great Plains has launched the Great Plains Earth Academy to provide personal and community enrichment opportunities for individuals living alongside wildlife.
The Great Plains Earth Academy provides vocational training and supplemental education with a conservation and tourism focus to youth and adults living alongside Botswana’s Okavango Delta. The goals of the Earth Academy are to improve participants’ understanding of their local environment and wildlife, promote conservation and sustainability, and invest in the skill and capacity of the local community and workforce. We plan to grow the initiative beyond Botswana to include programs and courses in Kenya and Zimbabwe and to offer scholarships and bursaries for secondary and tertiary educational opportunities in fields such as conservation biology and environmental science.
Focusing on capacity building and vocational training linked to tourism, the Great Plains Earth Academy has big plans for the future and high aspirations for all its students. A gift of $1,500 supports the cost of hosting a training or course.
Working with the Great Plains Foundation’s team of educator partners, including the Barefoot College, and local community organizations like EcoExisit and CLAWS Conservancy, the Great Plains Earth Academy provides targeted supplemental education courses. These courses are developed in consultation with local school administrators and based upon data collected in the needs-assessment survey. Courses centre around the following topics: conservation, ecology, geography, human and wildlife conflict prevention, sustainable agriculture, horticulture, arboriculture, tourism, and hospitality training.
Vocational Training: Drawing upon the academic resources of partner institutions and Great Plains Conservation’s (the commercial entity) vast internal human resources the Great Plains Earth Academy provides critical and applied vocational training courses. These courses focus on conservation management and the tourism industries. Courses are open to both young people and adults. Topics include wildlife monitoring, culinary skills, vehicle maintenance, and hospitality.
Students are encouraged and counselled to pursue further education, with the top student from each area, education and vocational training, receiving a scholarship to continue their studies at partnering universities or technical schools.
Great Plains also facilitates mentorship programs, where participants can learn and connect with industry professionals, giving them the opportunity to explore tourism and conservation as viable career pathways for economic and social mobility.
An additional resource and component to the program include “guest lecturers”. These individuals provide subject-specific lessons or training for a limited time. Guest lecturers are Great Plains staff, partners, or guests of Great Plains Conservation camps. The guest lecture program provides a vehicle through which Great Plains Conservation partners and guests can engage with local community members in a meaningful way while providing enrichment and educational opportunities for community members.