How do you talk to children about the environment, in a way that makes sense to them? That was the question we (Sam, Alison, Kelsie and Joana) asked ourselves one afternoon while sitting on our dock. We had had numerous conversations with the community members about the environment. Different people told us about the various obstacles they were facing, and problems they were seeing with the way the communities lived alongside nature.
People told us stories of how it once was. Fishermen would come back from a long days work with plenty of fish, divers would reach the ocean floor and find more lobsters than they needed to financially sustain themselves. Today, people cross their fingers when venturing out to sea in hopes that they can bring back enough to support their families. People would tell us how Pearl Lagoon used to look. All grass, no streets. Clean. Today we hear people talk of the garbage that litters the streets, and the obstacles of having no one to pick up full garbage bins, and nowhere to put it. Some things we have noticed ourselves. People would tell us of how they want to protect the environment, yet some will throw garbage into the lagoon during panga rides, and children drop wrappers onto the ground whenever convenient for them. So we decided, as a side project to our work here with MyBEST, that we would do something to talk to the children about the environment.
From this, our Environmental Awareness Day was born. We decided we would go from school to school talking to the children about a few main issues: garbage in the lagoon/street garbage, over-use of resources, protection of resources, and a general appreciation for the environment itself. We had to do this in a way that would reach 1st and 2nd grade students and keep them interested and engaged. We put together a proposal that we presented to the Alcaldia (local government) to ask them to help fund refreshments for the children as well as materials we needed for the project. After receiving a Friday evening personal phone call from the mayor, it was established that the Alcaldia would help us. With their help as well as the partnership of the Wildlife Conservation Society we facilitated a day that took children away from their school work and got them talking about their environment. We visited 3 communities (Pearl Lagoon, Raitipura, and Haulover) and worked with almost 200 students. Below, each of us have written about our individual activity, all four of which made up the day.
Written by: Kelsie Wright
Environmental Awareness Day Video – Leeton Learns a Lesson
Why we chose to make a video
The communities and students we work with regularly spend their time learning in their classroom through writing in the notebooks, repetition and games. In our first few months living here we had access to videos through our computers and on many occasions had groups of children begging to watch any videos we had. Not only did they watch the videos, they repeated the words and were fully engaged with the characters. The idea of making a video and projecting it on wall in a classroom came true when we were able to borrow the Heath Centre’s projector. The video was created to help the children learn about the environment and how important it is to keep their communities clean. We chose to have locals participate as actors and actresses to help the children relate to people and also to have these people help enforce the messages with lasting action.
The making of the video
The main people involved in the video were a local man named Leeton Patterson and Beulah Lightburn’s (a local school) environmental club. In the video Leeton learns lessons from the kids about where to throw garbage and also shows what communities look like if they are not taken care of. On the first day of filming it rained, but three of the children from the club still showed up and we were able to record the scenes for the video. While walking around Pearl Lagoon taping the video we got a lot of questions and more and more children started showing up. In the end we had a group of 7 children who all took part in the video.
After filming a few short skits we then spent another day tracking down some of the locals who work with children, coaches of baseball teams, community leaders, and recognizable older students to speak and help influence the importance of keeping their communities clean.
The children’s reactions to the video
Before the video was shown their was a discussion about what the word “environment” means and all the children were taught about how they need the air, water and the earth to live. The children were then shown the video and were surprised and intrigued when they noticed people they knew in the video. In all communities the children sat and could not take heir eyes off the video. When seeing some of the pictures of dirty places ridden with garbage the children were disgusted and their faces and noises made his evident.
After watching the video
After watching the video there was a discussion about lessons learned and a quick guessing game about how long pieces of trash take to decompose, rot and spoil. The kids learned about how long it takes for things to decompose- it takes a banana peal 1 month, a paper plate about 5 years, a plastic bag about 20 years, an aluminum can between 200-500 years, a styrofoam cup about 5,000 years, and a glass bottle about a million years.
After environmental awareness day there were instances out in the communities where the children approached the actors and actresses with questions and recognition. The video has been passed along to members in the community and also to the Environmental Club to be presented at a later date to children from different grades.
Written By: Joana Lincho
The Great Tree
My section chose to talk about the downfalls of exhausting natural resources, and why they should be protected. Part of our work with the MyBEST project has focused on reading, and to connect the work we had already done with this new initiative, I put together a storybook. Adapting the story “The Great Kapok Tree” written by Lynne Cherry we put together a large storybook (made from folded sheets of chart paper), accompanied by drawings.
Spoiler Alert: The book tells the story of a man who goes into the forest to cut down a tree. Becoming tired from the arduous task, he decided to rest beneath that very tree and falls asleep. The animals of the forest come out to speak with the man while he sleep, convincing him to save the tree as it is their home. While some small details here changed (his axe is now a machete, and the jaguar has been renamed “tiger”) to make things more culturally appropriate, the takeaway message remains the same. The different animals all express how they use the tree, and how all their uses and needs are connected. The frog takes shelter in the tree’s leaves. The butterflies pollenate the tree. Others express how the man himself uses the tree (oxygen, beauty, etc.). In the end, after hearing the animals’ pleas, the man chooses not to cut down the tree.
I wanted to get the children involved in the story telling process, so there were interactive times where the students got to shout out answers, and make sounds. Different groups could be heard yelling “hey” throughout the schoolyard and this often drew the attention of older grades. After reading the book, the children got to shout out their favourite animals, and as a class we would re-read the message that animal had to say. It was a great experience to see the classes excited about the topic and eager to participate.
Written By: Sam Wisnicki
Love the Environment
As we all believe in the power of art as a means to communicate information to children, we decided that one station – the one I lead – would teach about the environment through an art activity. After a long day of validating the preschool manuals I had worked on throughout my internship, I set to search out some possible projects online, but nothing that I found was quite right. Either the materials needed were not available in Pearl Lagoon (as art resources are quite limited), or they were too advanced for kids between the ages of 7 & 10. I decided to go with something simple – leaf-rubbing crowns.
I talked to the children for the first ten minutes about fostering a general appreciation for the environment. We talked about the things they liked – food, fresco, swimming in the lagoon, etc. – and the things they needed to survive. All these things, of course, come from the natural environment and thus had to be protected and cherished. After that, we reviewed all the things that trees give to us – air, fruit, natural beauty – then I asked the children to run outside and take one leaf, not from a living tree but one that had fallen to the ground, and bring it back.
Once back in the classroom, I had them identify the smooth side and the bumpy side of their leaves, explaining to them that we were going to use the bumpy side. The children all crowded around as I demonstrated how to do a leaf-rubbing, and when the leaf showed up in such detail on the paper the kids were in awe. They were so enthusiastic – it was like magic to them. I passed around the classroom supervising and helping the children. When they were done, we taped their crowns together and they all wore them proudly on their heads to demonstrate how much they loved and appreciated the environment. In the end, a very simple activity utilizing only four things – a leaf, crayons, paper & tape – became a very successful tool to help foster an appreciation for the environment amongst young children.
Written by: Alison Costa
Save the Turtles
We partnered with the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) for the last station. Rudolfo Chang, the WCS Nicaragua Program Facilitator, worked with us to design a game which would help teach the children about the life cycle of a turtle and the dangers to them at each stage. The Hawksbill Sea Turtle is a critically endangered species but are often still caught by fishermen for food and other purposes, such as making jewelry from the shells.
The purpose of this station was to teach the children the importance of protecting these turtles. The activity started with the WCS representatives (or myself on the occasion that a WCS representative was not able to attend) explaining the life cycle of a turtle. The children would crowd around a poster filled with turtle pictures and listen intently to how turtles progress from an egg to a huge adult turtle. They were surprised to learn that only about 1 out of 1000 turtle eggs are able to survive to become adult turtles.
After the lesson, the children played a game which showed the predators of the turtle at the different life stages. The first round three children were chosen as volunteers. One was chosen to be a dog, a predator of the turtle eggs, one was chosen to be a human who poaches the turtle eggs, and one was chosen to be a WCS representative who saves the turtle eggs. The rest of the class were the turtle eggs. Each group stood in the opposite corners at the back of the classroom. The turtle eggs had to hop to the front of the class and out the door before one of the predators caught them. If they were caught, they had to stop moving. If the WCS volunteer saved them, they could continue moving until they were caught again or made it out the door. The children that were caught became fish, which is the next level of predator of baby turtles, along with the dog and the human predator. The children that were not caught became baby turtles. This time the baby turtles could crawl across the class to the door while the predators tried to catch them. At the end of this round, usually only about 3 or 4 students remained. The last round, those 3 or 4 students became the adult turtles and three students were chosen to become sharks, one student became a fisherman and they were added to the group of predators. At the end of the game, usually only 1 or 2 students were left, representing the 1 or 2 turtles that survive from an egg to an adult turtle. The children had a great time playing the game and because of their active participation were able to comprehend the dangers that affect the turtles.