We know that when people understand that their quality of life relies on the health of their natural environment, and that they have a direct hand in identifying and creating ways to protect and sustainably use their natural resources, the needs of both people and nature will be addressed. This is why EcoLogic develops and supports environmental education activities to promote knowledge, understanding, and action on the part of adults and children alike.
At many of our project sites, our local partners identify the need to raise awareness of the importance of the natural environment and biodiversity in sustaining natural resources—such as freshwater—now and into the future. We work with our local partners to devise ways to help people understand how the local ecosystem works and why its many different elements are all interdependent.
One tool we use for this purpose is a three-dimensional geographic model that visually depicts the local ecosystem. Community members collaborate to design and create simple but accurate models constructed from wood and papier-mache that represent their local watershed, forest, or other significant natural area. They also create a version of the model that represents an ideal future, when reforestation and other activities have successfully taken hold. This activity helps community members understand current challenges and literally visualize a brighter future with successful natural resource management in place.
Environmental education can take many forms. In Olanchito, Honduras, for instance, EcoLogic Technical Specialist Carlos Euraque helps organize World Water Day celebrations that include panels, demonstrations, and a parade. These activities are aimed at helping raise awareness of the need to protect the Uchapa y Pimienta watershed, which provides freshwater for more than 40,000 people in Olanchito and neighboring communities. Carlos uses posters, contests, field trips, and learning exchanges to get the message out about environmental conservation and the need for restoration and protection. He often collaborates with high school and college students to create inspirational posters and murals; his pioneering work involving students in reforestation efforts has seen great success in getting young people to enthusiastically support environmental conservation.
At our Forest of the Water Spirit project site in Totonicapan, Guatemala, we collaborated with our local partner and our resident ArtCorps fellow to develop and produce the first semana verde, or “green week,” event. During this now-annual event, a variety of exhibitions, performances, educational opportunities, and celebrations take place, including a large parade in which many local schools participate and compete for prizes for best costumes and performance.
It’s important to single out our collaboration with ArtCorps and our resident ArtCorps fellow, who resides at our Totonicapan project site and leads many environmental education activities in schools and universities, in addition to activities for adults (including the Totonicapan 48 Cantons leadership). The ArtCorps fellow also provides training to local teachers to help them integrate environmental education activities into their curricula and organizes public awareness campaigns, such as mural painting and public art installations.