Tourism Day at Maple House

Staff members Teclar Arutura and Nadia Wessels in Sotho beading.

It was colour galore at Maple House in Somerset West recently, as the children celebrated Tourism Day.

A proud eco-school, in their eighth year of the Wildlife and Environmental Society of South Africa (WESSA) Eco School’s Pro-gramme, they were up for a challenge when 2017 was declared the Year of “Sustainable Tourism” by the United Nations.

Platinum Eco Schools in South Africa, which have been in this programme for six to 10 continuous years, have to do three lessons on this special theme, and still maintain five themes, throughout the course of one year, to achieve green status as a South African Platinum Eco School.

The five themes are resource use; nature and biodiversity; healthy living; local and global issues; and community and heritage.

To explaine “sustainable tourism” to little ones, Maple House principal Liesel du Toit says: “The route to go, is to play it out and explain it very simply.”

She shared some of the key points that were highlighted for the children:

1. What is a tourist and why do they want to visit our country?

2. Before they travel here, they read up as much as they can about our diverse culture, the beautiful scenery and places that they can visit, our special African animals, where they can stay, what they can buy and of course everything about our delicious traditional heritage food. They arrive informed and well-prepared with excellent travel guides.

3. More importantly, they have an expectation that their visit and the money they spend at restaurants and guest houses or produce that they buy such as locally produced honey products, wines, rooibos products, art, jewellery,
Karoo mohair etc. contributes towards empowering local communities.

Good examples of this are Wire Works in Cape Town, the Green Point Park, Simple Bee in Hopefield and the Rooibos Route in the Cederberg, Liesel added.

In a nutshell, tourists have an increasing expectation that establishments they visit should actively work towards achieving sustainability and plough back into their communities.

This summer, it is also our duty to ensure that tourists understand our shortage of water in the Western Cape and that they are educated to not waste a drop, said Liesel.

To kickstart their first platinum lesson of 2017, they decided to do a fun Tourist Day at school, and converted their senior phase class into a traditional Cape restaurant.

Moms, dads and grandparents were all on board and pitched in with the preparation of the food and recycled décor.

An art exhibition of Bo-Kaap houses was done by the little ones, greetings in different languages of the world were exhibited and the children were asked to dress up as a tourist from any country in the world.

On the big day, they arrived from all over the “globe”: Mexico, Dubai, Spain, the USA, South America, Japan, a few on safari and some in local traditional outfits, to name but a few.

The teachers dressed up with traditional Sotho beading, and the children were surprised with face painting, exquisitely done in protea flower shades of greens, white and pinks.

Over eight days, senior phase teachers, Nadia Wessels and Nienie Kriegler, conducted di fferent sections of the first platinum lesson on the history of heritage foods of the Cape.

By the time their big Tourism Day arrived, the children had learned all about the history of and the preparation of these foods they were going to sample, and were well-informed about Dutch, Persian, Arabian and Roman influence on Cape Heritage food.

They knew recipes are something that we inherited, and that your inheritance not only includes your country’s recipes and food, but also the scenery, animals and culture.

During the first lesson, they found it fascinating that Abraham instructed his wife Sarah to use approximately 64 cups of flour to bake more than 100 roosterkoeke for the three special visitors to their community, and that they also had a “braai”.

In ancient Bible times, the Romans already ate a type of bobotie dish with lentils.

Two guests of honour were invited to festivities: Freya Brett (node coordinator of the Helderberg Eco-schools) and Thomas van Niekerk (Academy of Performing Arts of the Western Cape).

Leilani MacGillivray, one of the Grade RR moms, laid out a beautifully-decorated Cape Dutch table for them, and the Cape Heritage food journey began.

Nine traditional foods were served by the moms to the guests and children: roosterkoek and boerewors; West Coast smoorsnoek; Cape chicken breyani and stewed fruit; pumpkin fritters; Boland green bean stew; Cape bobotie and yellow rice with raisins; Karoo malvapoeding and koeksisters; and Bos rooibos ice-tea as a beverage.

As a cultural surprise, one of the parents, Yolanda le Roux, who is affiliated with the Stellenbosch Conservatorium, entertained the little tourists with lively traditional South African tunes on her violin.

Yolandi van Wyk took over the décor and ensured that each little table looked utterly gorgeous with recycled tins (in the six colours of the South African flag) on a raised wooden base. These were filled with proteas and fragrant fynbos.

Maple House’s next two platinum eco lessons will focus on the plight of South African bees, as well the production of local honey, and on the story of South African rooibos.