Explore4Knowledge creates mobile classrooms around South Africa and focuses on promoting syllabus-based holistic learning through environmental education activation and expeditions.

Orms Direct prides itself on having a lot of incredibly loyal and supportive customers – so naturally, we end up learning a bit about them and building relationships. One of those customers is John Lucas, who has been supporting us for years. In this time we came to learn that he has started an incredibly inspiring initiative, called Explore4Knowledge, which we thought would be really great to share with our Orms community. We recently chatted to John and here’s what he had to say:

Hi John, please tell us a bit about yourself and Explore4Knowledge.

My passion for conservation started at a young age, my parents tell me that when I was 7 I informed them that I was going to be a game ranger and that shortly thereafter I convinced them to purchase a KODAK film camera for me to take “Nature Photos”. Living in Pretoria we were able to see some amazing wildlife on our doorstep and as I got older my father taught me to take photos with his Canon A1 which still works and is in my office today along with various awards for my work in the field of conservation.

Though after graduating and being able to work across Southern Africa and the Sub-Antarctic in conservation research positions I realised that there was a need to bridge conservation, research and education. It was for this reason I founded explore4knowledge (e4k) in 2011.

This started as a blog to tell family and friends what I was up to – social media networks were not so prominent when I started in the field – the blog evolved into a website with projects and sponsors supporting my work. This blog has now grown into a functioning organization which develops and managed unique environmental expeditions, projects and campaigns alongside our network partners.

e4k focuses on promoting syllabus-based holistic learning through environmental education activation and expeditions. These multi-award winning workshops, mobile classrooms, camps and expeditions have not only reached over 15 000 students in a sustainable manner across various socio-economic boundaries (2011-2015) but have become a benchmark in promoting the pursuit of exploration in the fields of Geography, Biology and Science.

By focusing on promoting Education Through Adventure®, e4k® has been able to make these fields relevant to the current generation and through using citizen science tools, partnering with industry leaders, corporate sponsors and private donors they have been able to bridge the gap between science and education at a grassroots level.

My personal interest still remains in developing and documenting these unique projects and expeditions alongside my team, though alongside this I have developed other brands with include exducationalexpeditions.co.za focusing on schools camps, corporate and brand orientated weekend getaways and a production company called PinMediaSA.com filming a bit of everything, but focusing on expeditions conservation and environmental campaigns. 

explore4knowledge interview featured on Orms Connect

What are the fundamental goals in terms of what Explore4Knowledge is hoping to achieve?

In general, we aim to live up to our motto of promoting “Education Through Adventure” in all we do, but secretly we aim to unlock or enable individuals to rediscover their childlike fascination with nature.

Knowledge is power and we are proud to promote the journey of discovery within individuals through our field work as we explore4knowledge.

And how do you go about trying to accomplish those goals as a company?

The e4k team is truly passionate about addressing ECD – Tertiary level students, as well as adults and educators and we, would like to think what we do is unique.

Our school camps, workshops and educational programs all feed into our expeditions and our goals are achieved by using our innovative approach to holistic and experiential based learning. Though involving individuals in citizen science-based projects, data collecting and learning experiences we not only try to add value to what individuals are taught but reinforce the teachings through doing.

What are the fundamental values/teaching tools Explore4Knowledge uses?

e4k uses a variety of teaching tools, these depend on our projects and campaigns.

Though what we are most proud of is our mobile classroom vehicle, designed and envisioned by John Lucas to promote freshwater, marine and terrestrial ecology.

This vehicle merges the indoor classroom with outdoor based experiments, technology with textbooks and innovation with inspiration.

This vehicle has been in use for the past few years as a mobile prototype, but with our new website mid-2018 we will be revealing it with all its abilities. We don’t want to spoil the surprise, but its been 5 years in the making some something we incredibly excited about and proud of.

 Explore4Knowledge mobile classroom featured on Orms Connect

Interview with Explore4Knowledge mobile classrooms featured on Orms Connect

I can imagine it must be a really eye-opening and life-changing journey for those who take part in these experiences, but what effect does Explore4Knowledge have on the communities it visits (if any)?

The community effect differs from project to project.

Our expeditions have specific outcomes they are funded to achieve and they mainly focus on awareness, research and shifting the mindset of the participants.

Though our educational campaigns have a more sustainable and ongoing community-based footprint. Using the Olifants River Catchment along the South African West Coast as an example we worked with community-based schools seasonally for 3 years in this areas, focusing on educating 15 000 leaners in total around freshwater resources. Here we left educational tools and encouraged schools to adopt rivers and collect rubbish within the catchment which they did.

Though as mentioned each campaign has different outcomes and work independently with the communities where they are managed.   

Explore4Knowledge's mobile classrooms on Orms Connect

Mobile Classrooms with Explore4Knowledge featured on Orms Connect

Mobile Classrooms with Explore4Knowledge featured on Orms Connect

How do you give back to these communities? / How can people get involved or support Explore4Knowledge?

Besides, follow up educational programs and partnering with the Presidents Award of South Africa for of our work, we also leave the educators with resources they may require for the various subjects we address.

We always looking for passionate influencers, individuals, photographers and videographers to join us as part of our team so if you keen send us your details and we can see how we can include you in our projects. 

Though as with any nonprofit explore4knowledge’s greatest need is funding and resources. We always looking for ways to work with corporates be it a small monthly donation that goes to managing our monthly educational programs in the field or title sponsors who want to fund our expeditions we welcome any support.

Even old camera lenses, bodies, MacBooks or iPhones we can put them to good use with volunteers doing presentations at schools and capturing the stories from the field when our equipment is spread thin. 

What upcoming projects are you currently working on? Please tell us a little bit more about this project

We ran the Soweto 2 Sodwana project in March 2018 alongside our partners WWF SASSI and funders WWF Nedbank Green Trust, UN Environment, UN10YFP, Nissan South Africa and Integrity Control Systems. It was envisioned by John Lucas in 2016 at a WWF SASSI network partners meeting. A question was posed to the group as to how to address the upcoming and expanding Johannesburg Seafood Market and conventional methods were not able to change the mindset of local chefs in adopting a sustainable approach to seafood.

A few days after the network partners meeting John Lucas and explore4knowledge proposed addressing the problem from a holistic and experiential learning perspective. Taking chefs from various regions on multiple journeys eventually travelling our country’s iconic coastline and sharing its magic with the world and the chefs that join us on the project.

Soweto 2 Sodwana was managed on a limited budget as a pilot for what can be done and grow the projects into the future, our vision is to continue along the coastline of South Africa introducing Chefs to the resources they use in their kitchens within their natural environment and joining with subject matter experts to inspire them along the way. 

The Soweto 2 Sodwana campaign wanted to see the Chefs change the way they look at seafood. To have them become champions for the ocean in their own right and eventually over time change their menu’s to only serve sustainably sourced species.

In a perfect world we would be able to dictate to consumers what to eat and motivate it through scientific fact, but sadly the consumers have the power. Though this is able to change through having environmentally aware chefs who are able to explain how the farming of prawns decimate mangroves swamps around the word and for this reason they have removed it from their menus.

Explore4Knowledge interview featured on Orms Connect

Explore4Knowledge mobile classrooms interview featured on Orms Connect

I would like to thank Orms for the opportunity to once again feature our work and for the amazing unfailing support and servicing of our equipment. To Canon SA for the loan unites when possible, Rode Mic SA for ensuring our messages have sound and Manfrotto, Pelican and LowePro SA for the support when we started out all those years ago your gear is still being put through its paces many expeditions later.

Explore4Knowledge is launching their new website in mid-2018, which will showcase almost a decades worth of work in the field. But in the meantime, you can follow Explore4Knowledge’s journey on Facebook or Instagram

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