Our program, “Creating the Environmental Leaders of the New Millenium in Osa”, aims to change children’s attitude toward nature and empower them to lead the way for sustainable development thru Environmental Education (EE).
EE promotes change in the attitude of individuals and communities to a society that is knowledgeable of the environment and its associated problems. They become aware of the solutions to these problems and are motivated to solve them.
Children will need to influence their parents and teach them new ways of coexisting with nature. This is true in Osa, where the local way of life for decades has traditionally been based on destructive activities such as illegal hunting and logging.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) states that EE is vital in imparting an inherent respect for nature amongst society and in enhancing public environmental awareness.
Our environmental educators are biologists committed to reaching out to children in the most respectful and fun way possible. In exchange, they get lots of love, laughter and stories from the children. These stories inspire them every day to continue this endless process of changing attitudes toward their environment, not only toward nature but also toward their peers. Love, respect, tolerance, appreciation and empathy are feelings you can have towards your siblings, your neighbors, a tree or a snake.
Some of the stories they have shared with us show us how children change their attitude. For instance, a couple of weeks ago, during one of the children’s group meetings, Helena our environmental educator proposed the idea of playing Secret Santa among the 11 children that are part of the group, and making all the gifts with recycled materials. The kids engaged immediately, looking for recyclable waste that could be used to make their gifts. After their snack time, a cream cheese plastic cup was available and all the kids jumped to get it as for them it was a wonderful treasure. Some people’s waste is other people treasure they say.
Another endearing story happened not too long ago, when some members of this group found a land turtle crossing the road. After picking it up they became worried and began looking for Helena seeking advice. What should we do? What if a car runs it over? What if a dog gets it? A few years before, they wouldn’t have cared, they might have even hurt the turtle just for the fun of it, but now they love and respect fauna. And they are starting to lead by their example.
Help us maintain our efforts!
What a better way to learn than doing! It has been said by many teachers throughout history, that practice is the best way to integrate knowledge, and we have had the opportunity to do so!
At the end of the last year, we took children from several underprivileged communities in Osa Peninsula, to the world known Corcovado National Park. This protected area is supposed to be one of the world’s most biologically intense places on Earth according to the National Geographic.
Tourists from all over the world travel to Costa Rica to visit this protected area, and hundreds of Costarricans benefit economically from their visit. Local communities have a huge impact on this natural park and their surrounding areas. However close, many or should we say the majority of the children in the area have never been in this wonderful national park. It is hard to talk about protecting what you have never seen…
That is why our organization set up several trips to the national park with groups of the local schools. Prior to the tour, we provided the students with environmental lessons on Tropical Forest and human activities that threaten biodiversity, for instance, we talked about deforestation and hunting, and its impact on natural areas.
During our visit to the National Park it was great to see their faces and their excitement. They could not believe the amazing neighbor they had. They then saw the effects of conserving nature versus not protecting it. They understood why people from all walks of life, from all over the world come to their town to visit this spectacular place.
Our project depends of donations from people like you. Please, keep helping us, so that we can keep giving to these children new and amazing experiences.
Celebrating respect for our natural resources!
The end of year is always full of events, celebrations and festivals, as we use this time to offer something special to the children and adults of this disadvantaged area of the planet.
For the third year in a row we hosted our own Environmental Education Festival. This year our aim was to raise awareness of the need to protect the coral reef at Caño Island. On the 29th and 30th of November we will also collaborate with the local turtle conservation association to host the annual sea turtle festival in Drake Bay, and we will host a Christmas party for two schools of two very poor communities, during which we will distribute gifts.
The festivals that we organize always have an education and conservation theme, around which games and activities for the local children are organized. These mark special days in the calendar that kids look forward to each year, and they are both the protagonists and the beneficiaries of the activities. They greatly appreciate the festivals because in their day to day life they are not necessarily accustomed to activities centered around them, and can often find themselves relegated to the background of family life. Even something small, such as a face painting, can make a child feel like they are a star for the day.
It's nice to also see the children sharing, cooperating and enhancing their friendships through games and competitions. In turn we teach them to learn about and appreciate their environment so that they grow up with a sense of pride about their own land, and a life-long respect for their natural resources is forged.
It is also our goal to educate the children in a healthy environment in which values such as empathy, justice and cooperation are respected, in order to build a better future for the community!
Changing people’s attitude.
Sometimes the hardest thing to explain is when and how somebody changes their attitude towards any topic, especially when they are children. We have no doubt that raising awareness amongst the little ones is the best tool to protect nature and create the environmental leaders that will make Osa and their community a more sustainable place. Empowered children will be taking the lead in protecting and conserving their surroundings and will teach by example.
As an environmental educator, my quest is to find what actually changes their mind set. When I see it and when I discover that the planted seed is actually emerging from those little minds, it is a great success.
Last week I found one of those hatching seeds. After a conversation with an old man from the community about conservation and the work that we are doing with kids, he said “ No wonder my grandchild didn’t want to go hunting with his dad last time” (hunting in Costa Rica is completely illegal and penalized by jail). That was such a heartwarming experience for me!
On another occasion, during a horse back riding trip, I had a child come to me and whisper in my ear his concern about a pregnant mare who was suffering from walking under the sun the whole day. He was reluctant to say it out loud, because culturally animals are considered closer to objects than living things in Osa. Something had shifted in the way he saw and related to animals. Hurray!
Finally, I feel great joy seeing how the environmental groups are now working together. When we first started working, the children would be disrespectful to each other and would constantly fight. Now they share their art supplies, congratulate each other on a great job done and enjoy their time together.
These are only a few examples about how the children are being benefitted by our environmental education program, few examples that fill me up with satisfaction and that I happy to share with you: our benefactors who make all this possible by your kind and generous donations.
Chichi and Gustavo, ages 8 and 9, are from the sleepy but beautiful town of El Progreso, in the Drake Bay area. This town is distressed by its poverty. The lack of jobs, the deficient education, and other situations force many residents to move out of town. Many times, the ones who stay must take from nature to satisfy their basic needs. Chichi and Gustavo's father, Jose, is no exception. Known as the most active woodsman in town, Jose logs massive trees without permission in order to feed his family. This, of course, is an illegal practice and could lead to his arrest with jail time if he gets caught. But without proper education, he does not realize the implications this can have on the surrounding ecosystems nor does he see what his absence could do to his family.
The kids, on the other hand, are going in a different direction from their father. They are learning to use nature in a responsible way through the Corcovado Foundation's environmental youth program called the Pumas. Assiduous and enthusiastic participants, these brothers are the first ones to show up and the last ones to leave every weekly meeting. These meetings are part of the Foundation's “Creating Environmental Leaders of the new millennium” project which includes four other environmental youth groups in the nearby communities.
These groups are formed by children from different ages ranging from 6 to 12 years. Its objective is to create awareness among local children of the importance of protecting their environment. Through our environmental educator, kids are taught how harmony in the environment is paramount to their own survival and prosperity. They are given examples of how a thriving forest full of animals can used as a permanent source of income through tourism and how certain plants can be harvested responsibly to provide a sustainable source of food and housing.
The Corcovado Foundation's environmental education program is now 11 years old. More than 50 kids are participating directly in the youth programs in 5 different communities. Over 450 children receive some kind of environmental education class in school at least once a month. In order to maintain and grow this exceptional program we desperately need your help and donations. Gustavo and Chichi have an amazing capacity to track and spot animals in the wild. Those skills could easily help them become proficient hunters, or with the proper guidance, they could become amazing naturalist guides!
We thank you for all of your support!
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