by Rohsny, BV volunteer, Belize
Despite its laidback charm, Sarteneja in Belize is a small, fairly insular community that has faced considerable hardship during the past half century. Also, as is true in many other places, the grown-ups in charge are not quick to change their ways, especially when it comes to something as apparently nebulous as the environment. Education at the primary and secondary school levels is therefore an essential part of introducing sustainable practices in Sarteneja, and Blue Ventures is doing quite a bit in that department.
During the Blue Ventures bird and manatee expedition, we planned and delivered three school lessons: one to a preschool class, another to a third standard class, and the last to a fifth standard class. The preschool one was probably the most fun since it involved a song and dance sock-puppet show about Mary the Manatee, a local manatee that gets stuck in a fish trap and is rescued by a ranger from SACD, the Sarteneja Alliance for Conservation and Development. The Standard 3 lesson was a creative writing lesson, the subjects of which were reef creatures that we taught them about using posters we created and illustrated ourselves. The Standard 5 lesson was all about the idea and importance of biodiversity, using butterflies as a prime example. We later took the class to the butterfly sanctuary and botanical trail at Shipstern Nature Reserve, which they seemed to enjoy very much.
At the beginning of this expedition, a few of us helped plan and deliver a lesson on coastal ecosystems to a junior college class at Centro Escolar Mexico in Corozal. We also helped them design and collect data for their own scientific research projects relating to mangroves.
The school lessons were a challenge, especially for those not accustomed to working with children, but everyone managed to help out in their own way and make the most of the experience. We had to get creative in order to deliver the necessary content regarding conservation and biodiversity to each age group in a way that would be interesting and understandable, but it was definitely rewarding knowing that we were making a difference in the hearts, minds, and attitudes of these kids, and hopefully, in the future of Sarteneja.
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