NWU master’s student’s passion leads to book about wetlands

Kirsty Kyle, a master’s student at the North-West University (NWU), has recently published an educational children’s book and, after receiving sponsorship for the printing, donated the books to under-privileged schools.

The book, Discovering Wetlands with Piffy, Zenzi and Lucky, is published in isiZulu and English, and is aimed at primary school learners. It tells the story of her dogs visiting a farm and learning more about wetlands, wise agriculture, water use and more.

Kirsty says the choice to use her dogs as the heroes in the book was intentional, as it removes constraints such as race, gender and background, and most young learners can relate to a talking dog.

“I hope that by sharing important conservation lessons in narrative form, learners will remember what they read, and develop a life-long love for nature,” she adds.

“I love writing and nature, and combining the two is one of the best ways I can think of to help other people to see the wonders I see.

Kirsty recently had the opportunity to explore a wetland with a group of learners and donated a pile of the books to their school. “While wading through the vlei I found a frog and carefully held it so that some of the braver children could touch it. They giggled and smiled - as did I - and we just connected. Thirty-seven kids learned a bit about wetlands and a weird frog-lady found a great deal of hope in their bright, shining eyes,” she shares.  

Since June 2021, Kirsty has handed out nearly 500 of these books to various institutions and individuals within the KZN Midlands, ranging from creches, primary schools, environmental clubs, early childhood learning centres and other individuals.

Kirsty is about to submit her master’s thesis, which focuses on an endangered frog species that features in her book and can be found in the area where she distributed the books.

She says although she was blessed to grow up surrounded by people - and specifically researchers - who were passionate about conservation, she never saw herself becoming a scientist.

“However, after obtaining my undergraduate degree in environmental management through UNISA), Prof Louis du Preez from the subject group Zoology at the NWU offered me the chance to study under him and, when your childhood hero offers you such an opportunity, you jump!” says Kirsty.

“Growing up surrounded by both researchers and the ‘people on the ground’, it always annoyed me how the two disciplines so often don’t, or won’t, mix.  Sometimes scientific terminology and jargon make the ‘people on the ground’ feel inferior and excluded, while scientists in turn find it challenging to work alongside them.

“Because of this and due to my fairly unique position of having a foot in both camps, I feel it is my responsibility to try to change this situation. I want to be a go-between between scientists – who are making amazing discoveries about our natural world – and the people on the ground - who are dedicating their lives to protecting our natural heritage,” she adds. 


 NWU master’s student and proud author Kirsty Kyle and her dogs share a love for all things nature.

Submitted on Mon, 03/07/2022 - 12:07