Amberley Primary School Elephant Enrichment Day - 22nd May 2017

Last Friday, Shared Universe Foundation (UK) spent the day with pupils and teachers at Amberley Primary School as part of their enrichment programme, to bring to life the plight of elephants in Africa and what can be done to help prevent their extinction.

The day was great fun, with every pupil taking part.  From Virtual Reality sessions (360 elephant film) delivered by local film producer Domonic White; a live link up to South Africa with Axel Primmer, Head Ranger on the Mapesu Reserve in South Africa; to working with local artist Chris Oakley to produce some really striking and imaginative 3D artwork; the children had a fully interactive educational experience. As a pupil from year 6 commented: "VR is awesome – this is so cool.” With another from year 5 adding, “The best thing about VR is seeing the elephants get to their new home. It was really nice.”  And year 3 , “They’re in the room..”

The day began with a short talk from James Hill, founder and executive trustee of the foundation, who enlightened the children about what can be done to prevent extinction, and how everyone can get involved, and make a real difference.

As James commented: “On average an elephant is killed by poachers every 15 minutes in Africa, and the loss of life in the Laikipia region in Kenya at the moment is especially devastating. At Shared Universe our aim is to prevent the extinction of endangered species such as Rhino, Elephant, Cheetah and Giraffe, through creating safe spaces and rewilding them.  As David Attenborough once said, “No one will protect what they don't care about; and no one will care about what they have never experienced.” With these wise words ringing in our ears, we’ve created a volunteer programme to encourage people to get hands on and experience conservation in South Africa in the most affordable and meaningful way possible.  For those too young to volunteer, or who don’t have the means to do so, we have many other ways for people to get involved, and we’re delighted to support Domonic and his approach of using Virtual Reality. We are very grateful to everyone at Amberley School who put so much into their recent Elephant Day – we hope the children’s relationship with the elephant and other animals on our reserve can be an ongoing, enriching, and long standing one. ”

Sharon Cale, Head Teacher, Amberley Primary School, added, “At Amberley, we feel very strongly about children having a fully enriched curriculum. Throughout the school year, we have dedicated enrichment days that allow the children to take part in a wide variety of activities and learning experiences that give pupils the ability to develop opinions, reason about the world they live in and have the opportunity to make a difference to others.  This week’s Elephant Day has given the children a chance to learn more about the conservation of wild animals and see how they themselves can make a difference to an issue within our global community. Each class has taken part in a range of activities from video conferencing with rangers in South Africa, to VR experiences, to cooking biscuits to raise money for the conservation charity Shared Universe Foundation. They have used art and design work, persuasive writing, data analysis and a host of other cross curricular skills to develop their understanding and awareness of an issue that we believe needs to be broadcast to the wider community.”

Domonic White from the charity ‘Shared Universe’, is also working on a personal venture called “Nature’s Racers” which is designed to help build and encourage the bond between children and nature.

Domonic visited South Africa last year to document the safe relocation of a family of 7 elephants onto the Shared Universe ‘Mapesu’ Game reserve. Whilst there Domonic also captured 360 footage which, with the help of his 7 y/o son Oliver (who provides the voice over),  he has turned into an educational Virtual Reality (VR) experience.

Domonic said, “It was incredibly rewarding to share our 360 film with the pupils of Amberley Parochial School as part of their first ‘Elephant Day’. Head teacher, Sharon Cale, and her team blew me away with the extent to which they embraced the importance of supporting the urgent conservation work being done by charities such as Shared Universe. Their hard work and dedication to delivering such a special day for the children was heartening to see.”

Domonic is now looking for partners to help him expand the number of VR experiences and other activities he can offer. Domonic is delighted to be using Dr Brian May’s ‘OWL’ Virtual Reality kits which he comments are ‘the ideal platform for accessible VR in schools’.

Shared Universe is a not-for-profit organisation whose purpose is to prevent the extinction of endangered animals by securing and re-wilding their habitats. For more information on Shared Universe and how you can help, please visitwww.shareduniverse.co.uk or call 01453 297233

Shared Universe UK