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NWP Global Registry of Apprentice Ecologists - Parksville, British Columbia, Canada

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Parksville, British Columbia, Canada
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Registered: December 2011
City/Town/Province: Parksville, BC
Posts: 1
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Education: the Environment’s Greatest Weapon

I believe that the biggest problem with any environmental issue is disinterest due to not enough information being given to students. In my grade eleven year I took a Civics course where we were expected to take action on any of the many issues of the world. I got together with three of my friends for our project and we decided to tackle deforestation in the Amazon rainforest. As we were doing research we uncovered the horrific reality of what is truly going on in the world concerning conservation efforts. Politics and economy overrule any environmental movement by miles. Mostly we were shocked at how little we knew about any of the environmental problems in general, let alone with the Amazon Rainforest. How could we have spent all those years in school and not had our eyes opened to all this controversy surrounding the environment?
We considered doing a fundraiser to help animals of the rainforest but quickly realized that asking people for money without giving them in-depth information about the problem would only be a band-aid solution. For two months we collected information about the subject. We prepared brief presentations for each first period class in our school, encouraging them to come sign our Greenpeace petition to slow down deforestation in the Amazon. Then we took to creating a thirty minute presentation for elementary classes with the idea that to get people to think about the environment has to start with getting a child to love the environment. I talked to all the elementary schools in our area and we were invited to talk several science and social studies classes. With these invitations we embarked on one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.
The Amazon rainforest holds over half the world’s species and produces 20% of the world’s oxygen, so we need to treat it with care. 25% of all prescribed drugs are derived from Amazonian plants and the cure and treatment of many diseases. So far we have only tested 1% of Amazonian plants, but 3/4ths of those plants have anti-cancer properties. The Amazon also stores billions of tonnes of Carbon – a greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming. If you cut down the trees of the forest, then all of this carbon will be released in to the atmosphere in one big dump instead of in the more natural, slow release of the gases. Since the most efficient way of deforestation is clear cutting and the Amazon is subject to so much rain, many floods occur do to the washing away of soil.
We educated kids about the amazing animals and plants that live in the Amazon, and how important the rainforest is for humans, taking into consideration each age group we faced. Each grade reacted differently, but they were all very responsive to what we were saying. We focused on making sure every single child got to say what they wanted. We asked them all about their favourite animals and listened to their stories about things they saw on a hike and what they had heard about nature from their parents. What we were most amazed by was how many questions the kids had. How long do manatees live for? Are river dolphins really pink? Do animals love each other? They were absolutely fascinated about the world around them! And we were eager to teach them everything we knew.
A few days later we were asked by a middle school Social Studies teacher to come talk to his class after he heard about us from other teachers. We believed that this age group would be ready to learn about a broadened version of the problems affecting the Amazon. We talked about the political and economic pressures of deforestation, and why we can’t just stop a worldwide career that provides hundreds of people jobs no matter how harmful it is for the environment. These older kids were struck with a sort of fury about the way the world works. What started out as a 40 minute presentation turned into an hour and twenty minute discussion. There was not one child who didn’t raise their hand to ask about what they could do to help, and what they thought the government should do regarding the problems affecting not only countries overseas, but Canada itself.
What really touched my heart about this project was the amount of appreciation we received. The younger kids all came over to give us high fives and hugs while the older kids gave us standing ovations. Our Civics’ teacher told us she was getting non-stop phone calls from friends whose children attended our presentation, saying their kids could not stop talking about the things they had learnt and how they now all wanted to be environmentalists. One girl even came up to us saying that she hoped that when she got to high school she could be just as inspirational as us because we embodied the person she wanted to become when she grew up.
The summer after grade 11 I volunteered as a cabin leader at Camp Pringle for four weeks. I met almost 200 kids aged 8-11 and got to hear many of their stories and career aspirations. On several occasions they asked me about what I like to do and what I wanted to be when I grow up. I told them I wanted to work with animals and the environment and they hung on to my every word. To children the coolest person is a teenager. When I gave them fun facts about exotic animals they responded eagerly and were relentless with asking question. I loved being able to affect the way they saw the world and enabling them to form their opinions and want to do something about the world’s problems.
When I got back to school I quickly realized how much I missed working with children and being surrounded by nature and doing something for the environment. A few friends from Civics class and me created a Civics Action Club. We have a meeting weekly about political issues and environmental issues. I was voted the Environmental leader and I quickly proposed several projects. Along with planning beach clean ups and a more complex recycling program for my school, I decided to revisit the idea of talking to children because it was so successful the first time. I am now in the process of planning a “Virtual Zoo,” where a group of us will be talking to Elementary Schools, this time about various endangered animals of the seven continents in January. We will also be doing a two hour presentation for our high school come February, which will give me a totally different perspective on how to talk to this new age group. I think the biggest thing I took away from this journey is the self-confidence to talk to people. I would’ve been the last person to raise her hand in class about something, but if you find something you’re truly passionate about it’s amazing what fears you can overcome.
The key to getting people to care about any global issue is by raising awareness. Education about the environment must be started at a young age or it will be lost on older ears. The environment provides no perceptible thrill to keep a consumer-goods oriented population engaged and interested. Unless people are shown the wonders of the planet before they get too absorbed in other things change is impossible to create. There is a small window of opportunity in which humans can be shown the value of nature before the next generation will grow up blissfully ignorant of the catastrophic end to the glory of Earth. More thought needs to go into how a child thinks and learns because most kids end up hating school and waste the many opportunities a good education provides. Just like learning a new language or mastering a sport, training needs to begin at an early age to get the best results. The world is an amazing place and you have to have the patience to let children, as well as older generations, to realize that.
Date: December 30, 2011 Views: 6037 File size: 13.3kb, 1436.3kb : 2592 x 1944
Hours Volunteered: 65
Volunteers: 4
Authors Age & Age Range of Volunteers: 17 & 16 to 17
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