November 20, 2014

Putting the students to the test!

The current crop of students recently completed their first practical observation test.  70 questions, most centering on identifying phenomena encountered in the bush, would prove a stern examination as to whether the previous 3 week’s information had sunk in.  The morning of the test was like any other but there was an air of unease within the camp.  Students were dotted around the camp, coffee in one hand, book in the other as they used these last vital moments to try to cement their new-found knowledge.  Wide eyes and furrowed brows seemed to be the order of the day.

For the next 6 hours, the students dredged their memory banks as Gerhard and I set them a number of questions related to what we found in the bush.  From tracks to trees, dung to bird calls, the students were subjected to all manner of questions.  Some rounds were tough, some were easier but all our budding guides performed admirably, and many surprised us with the level of detail that they had retained.  The practical observation test is a great way for the students to see how much they have learned but it is also when we find out whether our teaching has been successful!  The pressure is on for us all!  But I am very happy to report that everyone breached the 75% pass mark with many scores being in the 90’s!

This is the first of many practical tests that the students will experience during their quest for an EcoTraining qualification.  In the coming weeks they will have to tackle bird call and slide identification, snake slide ID, frog calls and a second, more challenging practical observation, not to mention a handful of written theory exams.  All of these skills will hopefully set them up well for their final test, the practical assessment, which awaits them in just 3 weeks’ time!

After 8 years guiding in the lodge industry, I have seen all manner of guides ply their trade in the bush.  Some have been good and some, not so.  For the guests that come on safari this may be their one and only chance to experience the majesty of this land, and it is a guide’s obligation to ensure that they have a life-altering journey.  EcoTraining is in the unique position to send out the next generation of field guides with the knowledge that we believe is essential to give a guest the best possible experience.  Make no mistake:  this course is tough, but the rewards one can reap from understanding the complexities and intricacies of the bush are priceless

Blog and photos by Ben Coley

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