Monday, May 18, 2015

From The Schoolyard to the Riverfront: Watershed Education in the DR

Dominican students at a nearby school participated
in some of the environmental education activities
In February 2015, F2F volunteers Maria Moreno and Rick Hall traveled to Jarabacoa, Dominican Republic to work with the Escuela Nacional del Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales de Jarabacoa, which trains students in environmental management, forestry, park management, eco-tourism and other related fields. Moreno and Hall went to help the school enhance students' knowledge and practice of environmental education and community outreach. Faculty and staff were involved in a week-long planning process for the development of a demonstration rain garden at the Environmental School, and participated in watershed exploration along the Jimenoa River.
F2F volunteers, Rick Hall and Maria Moreno,
lead hands-on learning at the Jarabacoa School

Because environmental education is important for all age groups, the ColaboraciĆ³n Ambiental partnership was created between the Environmental School and the local schools in Jarabacoa. Moreno and Hall, along with students from the Environmental School, conducted a parallel activity at a local elementary school to plan schoolyard habitat projects and a rain garden. Seeing the positive impact and "aha!" moments that the kids experienced moved the goal from simply imparting a curriculum to cultivating an interest in sustainability and its impact on every day life to the general public. The School District Superintendent committed to planning for the inclusion of five additional schools in the project, with the ultimate aim of district wide implementation.

Hall and Moreno found that one of the biggest obstacles for continuing environmental education at the elementary school level was the lack of children’s nature books and supplies that are centered on DR specific flora and fauna. "There is a tendency to look north for models and solutions, before looking locally and regionally in the Caribbean," Moreno wrote. "F2F and Colaboracion Ambiental could help make these connections and teach this basic tenant of community organizing and education; relationship is the basic dynamic of natural and human ecologies." They also recommended incorporating a greater focus on climate change awareness, readiness, and resilience from "mountains to sea" in their watershed education. 

F2F Country Director, Rafael Ledesma, at the Jarabacoa School
In their trip notes, Hall said, "In general, we found people in the Dominican Republic to be open, enthusiastic learners, eager to learn new things that would assist an increased level of knowledge, respect, and care for the natural world, among students, faculty, and the general public, and some extraordinarily positive resources that can be employed to enhance efforts in natural resource protection, enhancement, and use for environmental education."

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