Making a splash on the Congo River

Core Themes

The Greatest Rivers of the World:
On week three we crossed the Atlantic Ocean to explore the Congo River and its tributaries. There we found an assortment of animal species in all different shapes and sizes, from pygmy hippos, to goliath tiger fish!
Some of our favorite animals included the Gorillas! Said one student, “Gorillas do everything together, just like at PAST&E and they are shy, not mean!” Another student, when asked about silverback gorillas said “There is one silverback in every gorilla family and he is the protector. The silverback of PAST&E is Coach Danice!” (PAST&E's Executive Director).

Animal Adaptations:
We learned that when it comes to the rainforest, your size can be a real advantage! Especially for dwarf crocodiles and pygmy hippos. With such a tangled dense forest, it’s harder to get around the bigger you are, so some species have gotten smaller over time to adapt!
In the river however there lurks the Goliath Tiger Fish. It’s huge and a strong swimmer with huge teeth.

The Goliath Tiger Fish hunt in the river rapids where they have an advantage against smaller fish. Being 5 to 6 feet long and up to 150 lbs helps them move through the fastest and toughest parts of the river with relative ease!

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Are you smarter than a chimpanzee?
Our Scholar Athletes in K-3rd grade are better known as the Classy Chimpanzees when they're at PAST&E. We wanted to test to see if they could figure out this same challenging problem!

Learning About Our World

The Mbuti People
We learned about the people who live in the Congo Rainforest, the Mbuti. The Mbuti peoples are hunter gatherers and know the rainforest well, but they’re being displaced and are losing their centuries old ways of living. It was interesting to learn that the Mbuti had something in common with the Inuit in North America. They both build temporary shelters! Instead of ice the Mbuti use mud, clay, sticks and leaves on the roof. These ones won’t last forever, but just long enough for a couple of dry nights in the rain forest!

Conflict Minerals and Mining in the Congo
At PAST&E, we frequently look at the world around us, when we learn about other cultures and places we ask what’s familiar? What’s different? And we look for ways to make a connection with places that may otherwise seem very distant. In learning about the Congo, our Staff wanted to touch on the conflict in the Congo connected to the mining of minerals in the rainforest. To demonstrate what it’s like to mine, our students “mined” the chocolate chips out of cookies using nothing but toothpicks…and we turned off the lights and fans to simulate a warm dark environment like some mines. The students agreed, it wasn’t that easy and took time and effort!

The minerals being mined include Gold, Tin and Tantelum all of which are found on the circuit boards of high tech devices with rechargeable batteries (mp3 players, computers, smart phones and gaming devices to name a few). Due to the value of these minerals, there is conflict and an unfair and unsafe situation surrounding the Mines. Miners work in mines owned and operated by armies. The workers have no rights or protection and are continually taxed by the armies they work for. Many of the miners are children, who miss the opportunity to go to school and the conditions in the mines are horrible.

The armies are not held accountable for these conditions and because of the value and high demand for these minerals there is no hope of change for the miners. The profits that the armies receive for these minerals are used to buy more guns to keep their hold on the mines.

When asked what we at PAST&E could do, many students thought first of not using the devices that have these materials in them, but they soon realized that this wasn’t practical. But we could ask the companies that make these devices to only buy minerals that aren’t a part of this conflict in the Congo. Our scholar athletes wrote letters and made a video encouraging companies to buy and use clean minerals instead of conflict minerals.

We started to learn the countries of Africa!

Waka Waka dance off for Congo
Our dance of the week was to the Waka-Waka, a pop version of a song from Cameroon part of the Congo River watershed. The lyrics to the chorus go:
Tsamina mina eh eh
Waka Waka eh eh
Tsamina mina zangalewa
This time for Africa

“Waka waka” means “do it” ‘tsamina mina” means come and "tsamina mina sangalewah” means come with us! Basically the song is saying to come dance with us all together, because this time is for Africa! And we had a very special visitor!