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Aug 3, 2011

Junior Scientists Program Takes Off!

Schoolchildren from Rosario da Limeira
Schoolchildren from Rosario da Limeira

My name is Joshua Niederman. I am an In the Field intern visiting GlobalGiving partner organizations in Brazil. Read here about my recent visit to "Junior Scientists Restoring Brazil's Rainforest"! This project brings hundreds of schoolchildren to a beautiful farm outside of Rosario de Limeira, Minas Gerais state to learn about soil and water quality and mapping the natural environment. Through learning new economically and environmentally sustainable methods of farming, the children appreciate the beauty of the environment and recognize the need to protect what is left of the Atlantic Rainforest. When I arrived at Iracambi, the night before the launch of the Junior Scientist program, I was immediately struck by the number and quality of the volunteers working on the project. Over twenty volunteers from around the world were entrenched in a discussion about how to best execute the school visit. These budding ecologists took control of the entire exercise, from which activities to conduct at which stations, in which time periods. I have never seen a business or non-profit organization that so enables and encourages its staff, much less its volunteers, to lead. Early the next morning, around 80 junior high-school children from two nearby schools walked into the farm, ate a quick morning meal, and headed out to five different stations around the site, which taught the children how to conduct soil, water and forest monitoring and evaluation. It became immediately apparent that at Iracambi, the staff and volunteers trusted and believed in the students to learn the ecological lessons discussed. Students asked questions about the acidity of different soils and the turbidity of the water from a stream that runs through the forest farm. After Tony, an ecologist from Barcelona, spoke about three different soils present in the area, I asked one of the students if he had ever seen organic compost before. He looked at me like I was from another planet. "Of course" he replied indignantly, "My family grows mango trees at home." This was an ecologically sophisticated and mature bunch. I couldn't help thinking, this is just the beginning. The children will come back to the farm throughout the month in shifts to make tree seedlings, plant and care for the young trees, and continue to study the water and soils. Binka, the project leader, stated that her intention with forming Iracambi was to "train future forest guardians." I couldn't think of better candidates then those young scientists. Congratulations to the staff and all of the volunteers at Iracambi for the start of a very special and unique program! The Mata Atlantica is a beautiful area of Brazil that is in danger of being destroyed. Iracambi is working to protect this area of natural beauty, and appreciates your continued support in order to do this. Contribute here on GlobalGiving today! To find out more about the history of Iracambi, check out the organization's website at www.iracambi.com.

Tony teaching children about tree seedlings
Tony teaching children about tree seedlings
Mixing and measuring the soil
Mixing and measuring the soil
Recording soil composition
Recording soil composition
Jul 25, 2011

Junior Scientists @ Iracambi is up and running!

this soil monitoring business is kind of fun
this soil monitoring business is kind of fun

Tuesday 19th July 2011 - 0530. Still dark, first stirrings at the Iracambi Research Center as sleepy students brace themselves to face the early morning mountain chill. Sleep is dispelled by the sound of the motorbike as Carminha, the Center's cook, shows up for work. Today she needs to make breakfast for fourteen international students, two Globalgiving interns, and one professor. Plus good sustaining snacks for a hundred odd Junior Scientists, teachers and well wishers.

Meanwhile across the county, in small villages and along dirt mountain roads, Junior Scientists are eagerly awaiting the school bus to take them to the opening day of Junior Scientists @ Iracambi. Each child will be coming once a month for the whole school year, to learn how to make seedlings of native forest trees, plant and care for them in the right season, practice soil and water monitoring, and input their data into the Iracambi GIS. Doing real science with real equipment.

0700 - one of the power lines is down and the last leaflets about forest trees haven't yet been printed. Toni the nursery manager shins up a tree and together with Clovis, husband of Carminha the cook, manages to restore power. Talk about Just in Time Delivery.... There's an air of preoccupation as students scurry to their posts - the kids should be arriving any minute. A delegation has been sent to meet them off the bus, the other side of the wooden bridge which can't take a bus full of excited kids. Meanwhile in the open air dining hall, Charlotte and Krystyn are ready with stick-on labels for each team - Team Ocelot, Team Humming Bird, Team Vampire Bat, Team Otter and Team Muriqui Monkey. The children surge up the road, excitement written on every face. After tucking into hot chocolate and fresh rolls with home-made peanut butter, and it doesn't take long before the initial shyness wears off and everyone starts mingling. Each team goes to a different station, some jump into the river and measure width and depth, others go to the nursery to make seedlings in recycled milk cartons. Team Humming Bird sits in a big circle under the mango tree talking about the carbon cycle while the Ocelots head to the classroom to talk about ecosystems and the Muriquis settle themselves on the brand new footbridge (completed yesterday) and learn about forest water monitoring. The state-of-the-art equipment was donated by the manufacturers, and nothing remotely like it has ever been seen in our neck of the woods before. 

You wouldn't believe that three hours could pass so fast. And everyone, from the ten year olds to the fifteen year olds, is engaged, excited and learning. So now there will be one more week of school holidays and then each Junior Scientist will visit us every month of the school year to learn how to collect and store data and care for the Atlantic Rainforest. They´ll be sharing their discoveries with their families, and growing up to be a new generation of forest guardians.

And it's thanks to you all: we couldn't do it without you! Thanks to Partners of the Americas who have supported environmental education at Iracambi over the past ten years, thanks to Vernier who generously donated our water monitoring equipment, thanks to Globalgiving who introduced us to a whole new way of fund raising, and most of all, thanks to each one of our donors. Junior Scientists @ Iracambi is up and running - yeaay!

Rainforest hugs to you all!

Binka, Robin, Fernanda, Marcos and the Junior Scientists @ Iracambi   

I just planted a seedling
I just planted a seedling
how do I describe ecosystem?
how do I describe ecosystem?
forest water monitoring
forest water monitoring
gotta plant my seed just right
gotta plant my seed just right
welcome to snack time
welcome to snack time

Links:

Jun 13, 2011

Junior Scientists @ Iracambi

Dear friends and supporters of Junior Scientists,

First of all, we are delighted and thrilled to have made the challenge, and then to have achieved our funding goal. This happened despite several challenges such as - a heavy travel schedule - periods of extremely limited internet access (in one particular Southern African country that has severe ongoing problems with both power and internet,) and finally - a cracked rib. Ouch! But the team soldiered on and our efforts were rewarded. We even managed to leverage another small grant plus the donation of some scientific equipment. (More about that when it arrives on site.)

A quick announcement. We have decided to keep the project posted until we reach our new goal of $12,000. The extra money will enable us to work with some of the small rural one-room schools that don't have access to transport or to anything much. They heard about our project and begged to be included, and we're really pleased to be able to include them in our program.

Two exciting things happened yesterday, June 6th. First of all we had a team meeting to work out the details of the project planning. The GIS team is in residence, the forest nursery is getting a makeover, we know what we want in the way of school equipment, and we are working on a timetable for the junior scientists program to take off. It's a great time of year to start since we are in the dry season and we're all ready to roll when the second school semester starts next month. (We're South of the Equator, remember?) Stay tuned for the next report when we have the project ready to roll. By that time we'll have hosted a visit from a couple of Globalgiving staffers and they'll be able to give you the inside scoop. In the meantime we'll attach some photos to show you where in the world we are, and what our outdoor study sites look like, (forest nursery, river, permanent forest sample plots.) More soon, and so many thanks to you all! .

Links:

 
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