As part of our on-going strive towards raising environmental awareness and increasing environmental education within surrounding communities, we at Global Vision International extended an invitation to the Agua Santa Primary School to visit us at our Amazon Expedition Basecamp in early June. We received a reply almost immediately, and in a few days the excited squeals of children could be heard approaching camp.
In their impromptu classroom the children were given a basic course in forest ecology and when asked, eagerly obliged in identifying their favorite animals, preferred habitats, and perceived threats to their rainforest. For its size Ecuador is the most bio-diverse country in the World, and it is home to a staggering 16% of the Earth’s bird species and the largest variety of amphibians to be found anywhere on the planet. Such statistics certainly justify an organization of GVI’s repute being in country from a scientific perspective and highlight the importance of our research in the region from a conservation standpoint. Yet it is through school trips and community projects that staff and volunteers alike are provided the opportunity to bare witness to that other and equally important portion of our mandate – education. We see first hand exactly how powerful the human element of our involvement can be, and the extent it means to those who reside in the forest and who therefore stand to be most affected environmentally degenerative actions.
Two of the most “hands on” and visually stimulating multi-taxa survey methods employed by GVI at the Yachana Reserve are mist netting and butterfly trapping. Both are ideal “spectator sports” and allow children the opportunity to easily and safely handle captured organisms. With this in mind, and in an effort to allow visiting children to play a role in field research we allow school groups to assist with recording data, and encourage their involvement in such surveys as much as possible.
“I didn’t think it possible for a child’s smile which appeared to be already stretching from ear to ear to expand still further” staff member Ryan Chenery was overheard saying as a Blue Morpho (Morpho helenor) butterfly was placed on the outstretched palm of one of the seven year old kids.
In an attempt to maximize school involvement in our environmental education program, GVI Amazon, as of June 30th 2012, has been host to more than 600 children from nearby communities over the past 6 months. This Agua Santa visit alone represented an entire age group at the school (6-12 year olds).
If only smile width could somehow be used as a predictor of the future environmental well being of our planet, then surely every supporter of the conservation movement would have breathed a collective sigh of relief had they seen young Lisa’s face that day in mid-June when an electric blue giant Morpho (Morpho helenor) suddenly took flight from her tiny fingertips.