Field Trip to Conchal Reserve and Dia del Arbol at Abriendo Mentesprint story
June 19, 2012
This past week Abriendo Mentes had two activities that focused on environmental issues. Costa Rica is known for its ecotourism and amazing biodiversity. Costa Rica is the size of West Virginia (one third of a percent of the world), but has nearly 4% of plant and animal species are found in this little country. I had been told that people were very concerned with the environment here, especially since Costa Rican environmental consciousness is imperative in order to keep the environment pristine and open for tourism business. While there is no type of recycling program, which unfortunately is not too surprising because of its rural location, the children took a field trip to Conchal Reserve for an environmental science lesson and we also planted trees for Costa Rican Arbor Day.
Abriendo Mentes works with the staff at Conchal Reserve to bring an outdoor education program to some of the children of Portero. Four times a year, selected students go on a field trip to the reserve to learn about environmental scientists do and to observe different parts of the forest and coast during the different seasons. Last week I went with the students in fourth and fifth grade. Only 5 students came with my group (the third and sixth graders went the next day) because some missed the bus, but once they got into the activity, I think everyone enjoyed themselves.
At the reserve, the students were given a talk about what the scientific method is and how observation is an important part of doing and investigation. We then learned what an estuary was and the importance of the mangrove trees in the estuaries. The children completed their observations by writing about what they saw, smelled, and felt at our first location, which was an estuary that was part of the protected reserve area. We then drove to a different beach (in Brasilito where I teach English) to observe a second estuary. This one was right next to houses and restaurants that had been built on the beach and was very dirty and included many signs of human destruction. The children had to again make their observations and then had a brief discussion comparing what they had seen and the importance of taking care of these important bodies of water. As homework, the students are supposed to go to the estuary on the Potrero beach and make the same sorts of observations and consider how clean they think it is.
Though not all of the students in Abriendo Mentes are asked to participate in these trips (students are selected based on best attendance in classes), programs like these are very important. The pristine beaches and protected areas are not places the children would normally have an opportunity to see and we hope that the stark differences between the two estuaries encourages them to take action to keep their own town and beaches clean. The students who participate in the yearlong program also will be making a presentation about what they learned to their classmates at school.
We also celebrated Costa Rican Arbor Day this week. Abriendo Mentes and the Potrero school had 200 trees (saplings) donated to be planted on Arbor Day. The children got out of school early to celebrate by planting the trees all around the plaza. Before receiving a tree, we had a brief discussion about the importance of trees for us and for other animals. Children scattered in groups with the volunteers and planted their trees.
Both of these programs related to the environment help the children of Potrero to understand the importance of being environmentally conscious citizens. I think environmental education could be a whole program on its own here, but the field trips and experiential learn activities are a great start to taking care of Potrero and making sure Costa Rica continues to be among the top 20 countries with the highest biodiversity in the world.
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