Frequently Asked Questions

What is Helderberg Eco-Rangers all about?

Helderberg Eco-Rangers is an outdoor nature and environmental education club where your children can have fun while learning about the wonders of nature and the world around them. Let them discover freedom, connect with nature, make friends and experience their world by joining this fun filled group. Your outdoor adventure begins with the Helderberg Eco-Rangers.

When did the Eco-Rangers start?

The Helderberg Eco – Rangers was initiated in July 2009 when some parents of the community realised that the children of today do not spend enough time outdoors and in nature. A couple of parents approached the Environmental Education Officer at the Helderberg Nature Reserve to explore the establishment of an environmental youth group. Claudia Schuster, one of the parents and Andreas Groenewald, the then Education Officer, are the founders of Eco-Rangers.



Who runs Eco-Rangers?

The Helderberg Eco – Rangers is very much a community group. It is currently managed by a few very dedicated people, working together to run the group as well as prepare and organise lessons, outings and events.

  • Andreas Groenewald:
    Andreas is the group leader, educator and guide. He has been an environmental educator for over 10 years at the Helderberg Nature reserve. He is also a registered field guide. With many years of experience, Andreas brings the group extensive knowledge of the environment, outdoors and nature. To add to this, he has a contagious enthusiasm when speaking on the subject of the week. Andreas has an exceptional way of dealing with people and as a result he can tailor each lesson to suit the various age groups of children. He has a way of teaching which captures the attention of the children, igniting their curiosity and excitement. Andreas is excellent with all age groups and as a result adults enjoy the afternoons as much as the children.
  • Wendy Coke-Norris:
    Wendy comes from a creative background most often inspired by nature and the great outdoors. She has worked in many creative spheres and now shares this knowledge and skill with the Eco-Rangers.
    Wendy takes on the essential roles of administrator, organiser, communicator and correspondent. She also writes articles, deals with marketing and advertising and maintains the wbesite as well as facebooks page More recently she steps in and prepares and presents afternoon topics, slideshows as well as activites. You could say she is involved in all areas of this group. Wendy has been behind the design of our logo and website as well as all marketing material. Apart from drawing inspiration from nature, Wendy finds happiness, freedom and time to ‘be’ when enjoying the great outdoors. For her, nature and art are therapy. She feels the two go hand in hand. Giving children the opportunity to be creative in nature is way to bring balance, allow a feeling of freedom and self expression and most importantly of all to just be kids.
  • Elizabeth Lavies:
    Behind the scenes we have Liz (a parent and keen outdoors and nature person) who assists with the Caracals each Friday. She is also involved in other areas when she is available. You are sure to meet her at the weekly meetings where she assists Andreas or Wendy.
  • Volunteers and regular contributors:
    We often have volunteers, regular guest speakers and contributors who share their knowledge and skills with the group.
    • Why did we start the group?

      First and foremost, Eco-rangers came into being because we enjoy being in nature, learning about and protecting our natural heritage. Nature is exciting and full of wonders and we want to share it with children and adults who have the same appreciation. Forming a group where children and families can meet is the most practical way to share this enthusiasm and enjoyment for the outdoors and all the creatures and plants in it.

      Apart from wishing to share nature with others, it has become apparent that many of today’s children no longer spend time exploring the natural world in the same ways that we did when we were their age. Research is showing that children need connections with the natural world as a regular part of their healthy growth and development both physically, mentally, and even socially. Disconnection from nature is leading to increases in problems such as childhood obesity, dislike and even fear of the outdoors, and even increases in behavioural issues. To preserve our natural heritage and to lead a healthy life, we need people caring, knowing and enjoying nature. In answer to this, the Eco-Rangers facilitate the opportunity for children and their parents to connect with nature.

      Add Eco-Rangers to your child’s list of extra murals / afternoon activities and give them the gift of nature and the outdoors. Kids who play outside are happier, healthier and smarter. Help your kids connect with nature and put smiles on their faces.

      Who can join the group?

      Eco-Rangers workshops, classes and outings are aimed at families with children aged between 3 and 14 who want to discover more about the environment and nature while having fun in the great outdoors. If you and your children are interested in the outdoors then this a group for you. And for parents who are caught up with work, long days and children restricted to indoors . . . you want to get them out and about but can’t . . . then look no further. Eco-Rangers will take your children outdoors and give them the fresh air and sunshine they need. And you can join on the weekends when we have outings.

      Eco-Rangers caters for preschool and primary school children. We currently have three groups.

      1. Dassie group – for children aged 3 – 5 (this group will only run if we have enough children enrolled)
      2. Genet group – for children aged 3 – 7 (will cater for only 5-7 year olds in the future)
      3. Caracal group – for children aged 7 – 11
      4. Leopard group – children aged 11 – 15

      Parents are welcome to join us. Our topics are always interesting and you might learn something new. We like to promote family activities and thus bring families together.

      With the Dassie and Genet group, we ask if a parent(s) can accompany their children who are 5 years old and under.

      How does my child join the group?

      We allow interested children to join the Eco-Rangers as visitors. If your child enjoys the time spent with us; you can then choose one of the following options:

      We have three options:

      1. Eco-Ranger membership – your child is enrolled as an Eco-Ranger and his membership fees are paid in full at the beginning of each term or if you pay annually, you can pay in full by February. Children who are members are able to work towards badges and will be given preference when outings are organised. Full members will receive newsletters and any other important information.
      2. Casual member – this option is for children who cannot attend Eco-Rangers on a regular basis due to sport or other commitments. These children will come on an as and when basis. Casual members do not qualify for badges and cannot be given preference when outings are arranged.
      3. Visitors – this option is for those who wish to bring friends / siblings along, however these children only join us once in a while.

      If you wish to join us, please fill in the membership form which you can download off our web page – www.eco-rangers.co.za. Once you have printed and filled in the form, please had it and your payment to one of our team.

      What does it cost:

      We believe our fees are very reasonable for what we offer.

      1. Dassie group (ages 3 – 5) – costs R450 / term
      2. Genet group (ages 3 – 7) – costs R550 / term
      3. Caracal group (ages 7 – 11) – costs R650 / term
      4. Leopard group (ages 11 – 15) – costs R650 / term
      5. Visitors and casual members pay R100 per visit / person for Genet group.
      6. Visitors and casual members pay R120 per visit / person for Caracal and Leopard group.

      Outings are charged separately. These costs will be emailed to you when information about the outing is sent out.

      When and where do we meet?

      The Eco-Rangers meet during the school term each Friday afternoon at the Helderberg Nature Reserve. Unless we state otherwise, we run our meetings from the Mike Woods Environmental Education Center. Sometimes we meet at different locations but these are clearly communicated via email.

      1. Dassie group (ages 3 – 5) – TAB
      2. Genet group (ages 3 – 7) – 13h45 – 14h45
      3. Caracal group (ages 7 – 11) – 15h00 ­ 17h00 / 17h30
      4. Leopard group (ages 11 – 15) – 15h00 ­ 17h00 / 17h30

      What can my child expect?

      Eco-Rangers is more or less a children’s Nature Club. However we offer a lot more than just being out in nature. Your child will be involved in a club where they can have fun with like minded children. These children and their families)come together to discover more about nature and the world around them. Our weekly meetings are aimed at developing awareness and understanding of the natural world and the environment. We want children to learn about the animals and plants, get to know their habitats and eco-systems and expand their knowledge of nature. Your child will be educated about nature in an enjoyable and recreational manner and they will leave each week filled with excitement and new information. They will discover new things about this world and realise we live in an amazing place. Being in nature with us will allow them space to grow and develop while getting in touch with a world they may never have explored if they were stuck indoors.

      Generally, our meetings begin with a short, visual, interactive PowerPoint presentation, packed with incredible facts and information surrounding the subject of the week. Andreas will talk the children through the presentation and involve them in questions and answers. Following this, we might work on something practical be it an art or craft project, some form of experiment, microscope work etc where children will learn more about the subject at hand. When the weather is good, we will often take a walk in the reserve and once in a while we will hike up the scenic routes of the Helderberg. There is always something exciting happening at Eco-Rangers.

      For members, we have a system where children can work towards badges. This gives children the incentive to learn more, get involved in other projects, do work on their own, explore the world further and grow in their knowledge and experience.

      Walking amongst the Watsonia blossoms

      Walking amongst the Watsonia blossoms

      Do you take the children on outings?

      We plan one or two outings per term. These outings can be during the normal weekly meeting times if they are in close proximity and fit into the time frame we have available. Outings further afield will be arranged for weekends. An email will be sent out to inform all members of costs and details. Please note: Your membership fee does not include costs for outings. Outings are charged separately.

      Eco-rangers cannot transport your children to and from outings. We rely on parents to transport their children. We do try to assist with lifts for those children whose parents cannot attend.

      Outings are open to anyone enjoying the company of children.

      Do you run holiday programs / holiday camps?

      We occasionally run programs, camps or outings during the holidays. Members and those requesting to be on our mailing list will be emailed with information regarding these. Members are given priority over outsiders. Holiday programs, camps and outings are open to anyone enjoying the company of children.

      Do I need to send a snack?

      We do not provide refreshments. Please send along a healthy snack and drink for your child. We do take a break during classroom sessions where children can run around and have a bite to eat. When walking or hiking, we suggest your child brings at least 500ml of water to drink. Children can fill up their bottles from the fresh running water.

      What will my child need?

      Apart from a desire to learn all about nature and the outdoors, we ask that children come with a good attitude, filled with enthusiasm, happiness and fun. We like to see smiles on the faces of our Eco-rangers.

      For weekly meetings:

      • Eco-Ranger name tag (this is given to members – ESSENTIAL!)
      • Eco-Ranger hiking waist coat (not essential)
      • Water and a nice healthy snack
      • Comfortable clothes
      • Hat or cap
      • Good walking shoes/hiking boots
      • Warm jacket/jersey for the winter months
      • Any personal medication (we have a basic First Aid Kit)
      • Sun block for the hot summer days
      • Small day backpack to carry water and snacks (only for when we walk)

      Not essential, but nice to have –

      • Binoculars
      • camera

      For longer hikes and sleepovers – We will send out specific requirements for these events. It is essential to have a good quality backpack and sleeping bag for these occasions. Your child will also require good quality hiking boots.

      Can visitors join weekly classes?

      Yes, visitors can join weekly classes. The cost is R120 / visitor (Caracals and Leopards) and R100 (Genets)and we ask that we are informed three days in advance should any visitors wish to join. We need to know prior to the class as we often have to provide materials for activities. Please note, visitors do not qualify for badges.

      How do you deal with unreasonable behaviour?

      Eco-Rangers is a safe, fun, enjoyable and happy place for children to meet, grow and make friends. We do not tolerate unsavory language or unreasonable behaviour in our group. Children who pose to be a problem will be approached and given a warning. We operate a red card system. Disruptive children will be given a red card with their first warning. A second red card is given with the second warning and the child’s parents will be informed of the issues at hand. A third red card issued means the child will be asked to leave Eco-Rangers.

      Are the Helderberg Eco-Rangers part of the Helderberg Nature Reserve and ‘the Friends of the Helderberg Nature reserve’?

      ‘The Helderberg Eco-Rangers is an independent group providing nature and outdoor education and experiences to children and their families. The ‘Friends of the Helderberg’ support this group and assist where they can in areas such as marketing and advertising. The Helderberg Eco-Rangers is not part of the ‘Friends of the Helderberg’ or the Helderberg Nature Reserve. All these groups stand for a similar cause – that being the preservation of our local natural areas, flora and fauna. We all work together where we can to make a difference. Teaching our children to be aware of, to connect with and care for nature is where it all begins and thus the Helderberg Eco-Rangers plays a very important part in the future of our natural heritage and the Helderberg Nature Reserve.’

      How do I become Involved?

      Would you like to volunteer by offering time / assist with fund raising etc?

      We are always looking for extra hands who can volunteer by offering time, skills, knowledge and assistance. Should you wish to become involved please contact us.

      How can I make a donation?

      Eco-Rangers currently runs on a tight budget as we want to keep our fees at a level most family groups can afford. Many of our dedicated team give of their time and skills on a voluntary basis. In other words they are not paid a salary. We would like to reach a stage where we can pay a small contribution to those who give so much of their time and skills.

      Apart from paying our team, we also need to purchase much needed equipment such as cameras, binoculars, computers, microscopes, magnifying glasses, display cases, hiking equipment to name a few. Finally, we have a general running costs such as website, design work, advertising, marketing, rental and cost of materials.

      Donations are always welcome and will be put to a good use in running the Helderberg Eco-Rangers. Please contact us should you or your business wish to donate funds or equipment.

      Can I sponsor or support a child?

      There are children who come from families who may not be able to afford our fees. It is our wish to set up a sponsorship scheme where individuals can sponsor a child for a term or a year. Funds raised from donations can also be used for this. Please contact us on should you or your business wish to sponsor a child.

      Is there anyway I can contribute to this group?

      You may wish to contribute your skills or knowledge by running a workshop or speaking on a topic suitable for our Eco-Ranger programme. If you wish to offer these services; please contact us.

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