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Reports from the Bioregional Education Classes of the
Eco-Ecuador Project

2009

Index to Set 2 (May-Aug, 2009)  

Note: Click on photos for larger images

*English translations are by Paola Divita

Ramon's Report #2

Bioregionalism Education
Summer Session, 2009

May 27 & 29, 2009 - English*

We started class at our usual time of 3:30. On this day, our main objective was to understand the steps we must take to protect our bioregion. The kids were divided into three groups to review and analyze the main topics. Each group had to choose one person to present to the rest of the class and the kids played rock-paper-scissors to decide who.

Evelyn presented first; she told the class a little about why it is important to consume healthy food, commenting that most of us don’t know how our food is produced. She said that we all consume products that are generated in factories, and as a consequence more trash is produced and energy consumed. I asked her if she has ever consumed organic food or knows of a place where they sell it. She said that at the market they sell organic lettuce brought in from the Sierras. She also talked to us about why it is important to drink purified water for good health. She mentioned that the drinking water that we buy in jugs is extracted from the local wells and that in the winter season we obtain pure drinking water from accumulated rain water.

Giselle presented for the second group; she spoke about how it is important that we conserve and recycle the water that we use in our homes. She explained that the water we use for washing our dishes and our clothes, we can then use to water the plants. She also pointed out the large amount of electricity we waste in our houses, because we tend to leave lights or television sets on and these appliances consume energy.

Ivana commented that, like it says in our book, we should respect nature. She said that we can start by making it a habit not to throw trash on the streets. She also told us that in her home she had a lot of ornamental as well as fruit-bearing trees, like plantains and lemons. Raul told us that in his grandma’s yard they grow papayas and "badeas."

On Friday, we headed to the large Cross that overlooks Bahia with the purpose of evaluating how much the kids had learned this week. On our way there, the kids observed a large amount of trash and they asked me why the city is cleaner, while the neighborhoods on the hillsides are covered with trash. I told them that the people who live in these places do not deposit their trash in the designated areas to be collected. Since there are many empty lots on the hillsides, they find it easier to dispose of their garbage there. We surmised that those individuals don’t realize that they are creating localized sites of contamination, and that the behavior is due to the lack of waste management education.

When we arrived at the top of the Cross, I asked them what makes up a bioregion. The class responded that it is made up of everything that we were seeing below us: the estuary of Rio Chone meeting with the sea, the plants and animals, the landscape, the climate and the soil. I asked them what we can do to protect our bioregion: not contaminate it, they replied. Our students from San Vicente suggested that they could take "triciclos" (tricycle taxis) instead of the motorcycle taxis.

Afterwards, we headed towards the water tanks which are located a little further up on the same hillside. Once we were there, I explained how the tanks are the source of our drinking water, which is distributed from there to the people of Bahia. We were also able to spot the water tanks across the way in San Vicente. We observed the work in progress of the bridge that’s being constructed between Bahia and San Vicente to get traffic across the estuary. I explained that it will probably produce more contamination as more vehicles come our way. On our walk down, I showed them the hillside where Planet Drum had planted trees a few years ago.
            - Ramon  

Note: Click on photos for larger images 


Clockwise from bottom right: Ximena, Raul, Ramon, Genesis, Gema, Pamela, Doris, Franco, Raisa, Roberto, Estefany, y Luis David.

Estefany answers questions in her Bioregionalismo booklet.

Franco has a question.

Luis David, Estefany, and Genesis at work.

Raisa, Genesis, Luis David, and Franco, with a Motmot bird they rescued (and later released) in the park where they have classes.

Ramon and his class climb up to the cross above Bahia.

Gisselle, Evelyn, Estefany, Pamela, Luis David, Raisa, Gema, Doris, Carlos David, Ivana, Ximena, Luis, Raul, and Franco.

Ramon’s class at La Cruz.

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Ramon-May 27 & 29, 2009 - Spanish/Español

Iniciamos la clase a las 3:30 como siempre. Este día de trabajo nuestro objetivo principal era tener claro cuáles son los pasos para proteger nuestra bioregión. Hicimos tres grupos y repartimos los temas para su respectivo análisis. Cada grupo tenía que elegir quien sería el expositor del tema analizado. Para esto jugaron piedra, papel o tijera; y el que quedaba de último era el expositor.

En el primer grupo participó Evelyn. Ella nos dijo que es importante consumir alimentos sanos; que por lo general no sabemos cómo se producen los alimentos ni que productos fueron utilizados para su elaboración. Le pregunté si ha consumido alimentos orgánicos o si conoce un lugar donde los venden. Me contestó que en el mercado venden en fundas plásticas lechuga orgánica, que la traen de la sierra. También nos habló sobre como es muy importante consumir agua purificada para una buena salud. Ella toma agua de bidón, ya que esta agua es extraída de pozos; también se obtiene agua pura en la época de invierno, por los desechos de la lluvia. Dijó que es verdad que todos consumimos productos que son generados en fabricas y que todos estos generan basura y consumo de energía.

Giselle, la expositora del Grupo 2, habló sobre cómo debemos aprovechar de las aguas residuales que son generadas en nuestras casas. El agua que tiramos, como la de la lavar los platos y ropa, debemos utilizarla para regar las plantas. También dijo que gastamos mucha energía eléctrica, ya que a veces en nuestras casas dejamos encendidos los focos o la tele y otros artefactos eléctricos. Y todos estos consumen energía.

Ivana comentó que, como dice el libro, tenemos que respetar la naturaleza. Al no arrojar nada que puede contaminarla, podemos crear en nosotros buenos hábitos. También habló que ella en su casa tiene muchas plantas ornamentales y alimenticias como el plátano y el limón. Raúl dijo que en el patio de su abuela tienen papayas y badeas.

El día viernes nos dirigimos al mirador de la Cruz con el propósito de evaluar a los chicos. En nuestro recorrido ellos observaron una gran cantidad de basura y me preguntaron que porque hay la diferencia de que la ciudad está limpia mientras en los barrios y las colinas hay mucha basura. Les dije que las personas que habitan en estos lugares no depositan la basura en el lugar respectivo ni la sacan cuando pasa el recolector, y como hay terrenos baldíos se les hace más fácil tirarla ahí. Racionalizamos que lo que pasa es que aquellos individuos no se dan cuenta que están creando un foco de contaminación, y que todo esto pasa por la falta de educación o orientación sobre el manejo de estos desechos.

Cuando llegamos a la Cruz les hice la pregunta: ¿Qué es una bioregión y como está constituida? Todos respondieron que es todo lo que estábamos observando y que está constituida por la cuenca del Rio Chone, las plantas y animales, los paisajes, el clima y el suelo. Yo les pregunte como es que debemos de proteger de nuestra bioregión. Ellos respondieron que no contaminándola, y no utilizando moto taxis dijeron las chicas de San Vicente. Después de esto nos dirigimos a los tanques de agua, y estando ahí les dije que toda el agua potable que viene desde la Estancia es almacenada ahí, luego distribuida a todos los habitantes. También desde ahí se podía ver el tanque de reserva de agua que está en San Vicente. Miramos la construcción del puente y les dije que eso va a originar mas contaminación, ya que el tráfico de los vehículos va a ser grande. Cuando bajamos les enseñe los árboles que ha sembrado la Fundación de Planet Drum en las laderas de las colinas.
            -Ramon

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Ramon's Report #3

Bioregionalism Education
Summer Session, 2009

June 24 & 26, 2009 - English*

We started a new week and this day we had to read and analyze a new theme called Land Ecosystem. As usual, the first to arrive was Franco and Luis David; coincidentally the two who cause the most trouble throughout class. One by one the students came to the park, and finally, Will arrived with the rest of the crew.

We began class with a new game; it consisted of placing a handkerchief between two equal teams of nine kids. The kids were numbered from 1 to 9 and had to pay attention to what number was being called. The object of the game is to pick up the handkerchief faster than the opponent. The team with the most points would win. The kids had fun although they complained that I wasn’t being fair whenever I gave the point to the other team.

Once we finished the game, we made a circle so that we could review the reading and draw conclusions together. Like most days, the ones to read were William, Maggie and Zach. The rest of the kids prefer only to give commentary.

When class was finished we played another game called "Good morning, how are you?" One person stood blindfolded in the middle of our circle, while the others talked to him in a different tone of voice. The person in the center then had to identify who was speaking to him. We had a good time laughing.

For our field trip on Friday we visited Cerro Seco, a biological reserve located on a hill behind Bahia. Marcelo, the director, talked to the kids about the species that live in a dry tropical forest. On our hike through the hills we observed a great diversity of trees and birds. We ended up hiking all the way over the hill and to the beach, which presented us with even more scenery and species for us to enjoy.

Evelyn wrote a little bit about her experience this week:

On Wednesday the 24th of June, as we regularly do, we met at Manuel Nevárez Park to talk about the different aspects of our bioregion. We began with a game involving a handkerchief and two teams. Everything was going well at first, but then everything changed and the other team started beating mine unjustly! They cheated! Afterwards, we took a seat and on this occasion, spoke about the Land Ecosystem. Each one of us gave a brief opinion about the matter. We chatted about the importance of the soil, of its positive and negative factors, and how we can preserve it. We talked about our point of view in regards to the kinds of activities that a lot of the times jeopardize and contaminate the wellbeing of our soil; we also discussed the impact that road construction and population explosion has on our environment. To end class, we played another game fun game.

On Friday the 26th of June, we went to the dry tropical forest zone of our region. We started with a walk on the boardwalk and before arriving to the neighborhood of Bellavista we ran into a clown and had the opportunity to take pictures with him and have a little fun; a good start to our adventure. As we walked, we observed a great diversity of vegetation, among them: Palo Santo, Moyuyo, Ceibos and more. We also stumbled across different species of animals; we saw termites, a wide variety of insects and birds. After the long and exciting walk, we decided to hike down the hillside onto the beach, where we found even more species of animals, in this case marine animals like crabs and jellyfish. Our surroundings were pleasant, to say the least; the feeling of the sea on our feet with the dry forest air made our experience magical.

The feeling I had was inexplicable; to see such a fantastic view and realize that we benefit from a great diversity of vegetation and animals, that sometimes we don’t value or make the effort to preserve it. On the contrary, we contribute to its destruction without even noticing the damage we do to not only it but ourselves as well. It makes a deep impression on me to think that while few people try so hard to protect our natural environment, many people take it as a joke. We need to put more effort in preserving our environment, dedicate a little of our time to observe all this beauty called mother nature, and understand how fortunate we are to have a biodiversity so rich and diverse like ours.

          Ramon


Ramon explains about Land Ecosystems to his class and some Planet Drum volunteers.

Marcelo Luque talks to the class at Cerro Seco during the Friday field trip.

Evelyn, Estefany, Raisa, Maria Jose, Maria Soledad, Raul and Luis Arturo listen to Marcelo along the nature walk.

Evelyn and Gonzalo walk up the hill above Cerro Seco.

Raul, Marcelo Luque, Evelyn, Estefany, Gisselle, Maria Jose, Maria Soledad, Doris, Gonzalo and volunteer from Cerro Seco.

Genesis, Luis David, Gonzalo, Maria Soledad, Maria Jose and Evelyn climb down to the beach at the end of the nature hike.

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Ramon-June 24 & 26, 2009 - Spanish/Español

Este es una nueva semana de trabajo,, el día de hoy nos leer i analizar un nuevo tema denominado ecosistema terrestre… como siempre el primero en llegar es zapatito (franco), después Luis David y son los chicos que mas pasan molestando en la clase… uno a uno llegaban los chicos… después de un rato llego Will…. Con toda su pandilla, después de esto empezamos a jugar una dinámica… Llamada el pañuelo que consistía en ubicar un pañuelo en el centro con dos equipos con números iguales de personas habíamos 18, y estos numerados del uno al nueve el objetivo era recoger el pañuelo lo mas rápido posible cuando se nombrara un numero cualquiera que sea este… y regresar de nuevo a su equipo… y el equipo que hizo más puntos ese ganaba, hubieron muchos chicos que se molestaron por que dijeron que yo favorecí al otro equipo…. Luego de esto hicimos un gran círculo ya que todos tenían que leer lo que estaba escrito en nuestro material de apoyo, y sacar una conclusión del tema…. Este día como los otro días leyeron William, Maggie y Sakk… además de los chicos que daban todas sus opiniones…. Cuando termino la clase hicimos otra dinámica denominada ,Buenos días..( Como estas) .Donde todos los tomábamos de la mano y formamos un circulo con una persona que estaba ubicada en el centro con los ojos vendados y donde el tenia que identificar quien era la persona que le hablaba pero esta persona tenía que cambiar su tono de voz..

El día viernes nos dirigimos a cerro seco para realizar un recorrido en esta área protegida,,, Marcelo les dio una pequeña charla sobre las especies que hay en el bosque seco tropical, después de esto iniciamos nuestro recorrido por los senderos…. Donde observamos una gran diversidad de arboles… hasta que terminamos nuestro recorrido.

Aquí están las vivencia de Evelyn de cómo vivió esta semana el programa de educación ambiental con el tema ecosistema Terrestre

Evelyn Delgado

El miércoles 24 de junio como era de costumbre nos reunimos en el parque Manuel Nevárez para hablar de distintos temas acerca de nuestra bioregión. Empezamos con una dinámica usando un pañuelo, nos dividimos en dos grupos, al inicio todo marchaba  muy bien y nuestro grupo iba ganando, pero luego todo cambió y nos ganaron pero injustamente…. ¡Eso fue trampa! Dejando atrás el juego, nos sentamos y en esta ocasión platicamos sobre el ecosistema terrestre. Cada uno de nosotros dio una breve opinión acerca de este tema, hablamos de la importancia del suelo, de los factores positivos y negativos para el mismo, de la manera de conservarlo y de varias cosas más. Expusimos nuestro punto de vista sobre las distintas actividades que muchas veces son perjudiciales para el suelo tales como la contaminación; también discutimos acerca del impacto ambiental que generalmente trae la construcción de carreteras, la explosión demográfica, entre otras cosas. Para finalizar hicimos otra dinámica pero esta vez ya no hubo injusticia y fue muy divertida.

El viernes 26 de junio salimos rumbo al bosque seco tropical. Empezamos con una caminata por el malecón y antes de llegar al barrio bellavista nos encontramos con un payaso, tuvimos la oportunidad de tomarnos varias fotos con él, charlar un rato y divertirnos un poco….y así empezó nuestra aventura, mientras caminábamos pudimos observar gran diversidad  de especies vegetales, entre ellas palo santo, mu yuyo,  ceibos, entre otros; también nos encontramos con distintas especies de animales, vimos muchas termitas y variedad de insectos, así como algunas aves. Luego de un largo y emocionante tiempo de caminata decidimos bajar por un sendero hacia la playa, en donde incluso nos encontramos más especies de animales en este caso marinos tales como cangrejos y medusas, el ambiente era acogedor al sentir al mar tocando nuestros pies que, contrastado con el ambiente del bosque seco se convirtió en una experiencia maravillosa y  emotiva.

El sentimiento era inexplicable al ver tan hermoso paisaje y darme cuenta que gozamos de una gran diversidad de especies tanto vegetales como animales, pero que muchas veces no la valoramos y no nos esforzamos por preservarla, sino que por el contrario contribuimos a su destrucción sin darnos cuenta del daño que le hacemos no solo a ella sino a nosotros mismos y eso es lo que más impresiona que mientras unas pocas personas tratan de protegerla, muchas lo toman como burla, pero esto no debe ser así, debemos de poner más empeño para preservarla y dedicar un poquito de nuestro tiempo a observar toda esa belleza llamada naturaleza y darnos cuenta que somos muy afortunados al tener una bioregión tan diversa como es la nuestra.

      Ramon

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Ramon's Report #4

Bioregionalism Education
Summer Session, 2009

July 1 & 3, 2009 - English*

This Wednesday, as always, Franco was the first to arrive to class. Once everyone was there, we played a game called EL BUM. For every multiple of 3, you have to say the word "bum;" for example: 1 2 bum 4 5 bum and so forth. Each time a kid made a mistake, he would have to name a kind of tree or animal from our bioregion.

Afterwards, we made a circle and started to read on the topic of Flora. Luis asked me: "Why is Ecuador considered to be mega diverse?" I told him that it is because we experience what’s considered to be new micro climates, which is something that we’ve witnessed during our field trips. We’ve observed many kinds of trees and plants native to the Dry Tropical Forest, which is inhabited by many species of animals that have adapted to this kind of climate. I also explained that in the hills of San Isidro, where the climate is more humid, the vegetation is very different and the kinds of animals that live there don’t exist in dry forests.

I described the trees that we have in our bioregion, like the Laurel, Ceibo, among many others. I also told them about some of the vegetation, like Muyuyo, Mudroño which serves as food for the deer, and cuchuco which is used as fence posts.

We had a discussion about how, in actuality, our environment faces a lot of threats, primarily, from the human race. The indiscriminate logging of trees, caused by agricultural expansion, has generated soil erosion. A lot of habitats have disappeared, like the mangrove forests in our region. Consequently, there are now people who are seeking to restore and recuperate these places, starting by planting organic products in their farms. With tactics like these, our impact could be lessened and we can find a more balanced form of living within our natural environments.

The kids asked me where we would be going on Friday. I told them that we were going to a reforestation site.

On Friday, I waited at the park for the kids to come. Clay, Raisa and Lissete arrived first. Clay suggested that we take advantage of our visit to take gallons of water along with us to water the trees. Fabiola arrived with her group of kids and we decided to join our groups for the field trip. Clay made the necessary phone calls to arrange how we could acquire nearby water for the planted site. We went to the Planet Drum house to pick up the empty gallon containers. A lot of the kids were too embarrassed to carry them, especially the girls. When we arrived to the site, one by one the kids filled up their containers with water and Raisa lead them up the hillside. Once we all reached the top, I explained that the hillside had suffered a little bit of damage during the mudslides caused by the El Niño phenomenon. They were able to see and better understand Planet Drum’s reforestation project of planting native trees to prevent the soil from eroding. That is how we will recuperate the flora and fauna of our region, they reasoned.

On the way home, none of the kids wanted to carry the empty containers. Ximena, Luis Arturo, Carlos David and Raisa were the only ones to help.

     Ramon


Ximena, Gonzalo and Evelyn during class in the park.

Raisa the class assistant, Luis David, Franco and Ximena.

Luis David reads about flora to the rest of the class

Estefany, Gisselle, and Evelyn walking through the Astillero neighborhood on their way to water at one of the Planet Drum revegetation sites.

Students from Fabiola’s class went along to help out.

Luis Arturo watering on the trees.

More students from Fabiola’s class helping out.

 Everyone at the bottom of the hillside where we filled up with water.

Bioregional Coordinador Ramon Cedeño.

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Ramon-July 1 & 3, 2009 - Spanish/Español

Este día miércoles fueron llegando todos los chicos, pero como siempre el primero que está en el parque es Franco. Después que todos llegaron, jugamos una dinámica denominada EL BUM, que consiste en que a todo numero múltiplo de 3 se tiene que decir la palabra Bum; por ejemplo: 1 2 bum 4 5 bum. Así sucesivamente, y la persona que se equivoca, tiene que nombrar una especie de vegetal o animal de nuestra bioregión.

Luego de esto hicimos un círculo y todos los chicos empezaron a leer el tema de La Flora. Luis me pregunto "¿Porque Ecuador es mega diverso?" Y yo le respondí que es porque poseemos nuevos micro climas, que hemos podido ver en los recorridos que hemos hecho. Hemos observado muchos árboles y plantas endémicas del bosque seco tropical, que también está habitado por muchas especies de animales que se han adaptado a este tipo de clima. Pero en las lomas más húmedas como las de San Isidro, el tipo de vegetación es diferente y ahí existen animales que no habitan en los bosques secos.

Siguiendo con el tema, les dije que en nuestra bioregión nosotros poseemos en muchos árboles como el laurel y el ceibo, entre otros. También les conversé de los arbustos, como el muyuyo, el mudroño que sirve de alimento para los venados, y el cuchucho que esta utilizado como estacas.

Conversamos que, en actualidad, nuestro ambiente tiene muchas amenazas, algo que es culpa de los seres humanos. La tala indiscriminada de árboles, causada por la expansión agrícola, ha causado la erosión del suelo. Muchos habitas han desaparecido, como los bosques de manglares. Pero ahora hay muchas personas que están tratando de regenerar y recuperar estos lugares, sembrando productos orgánicos en las fincas. Con esto el impacto será menor y podremos manejarnos de una forma equilibrada los seres vivos con la naturaleza.

Después de esto los chicos preguntaron a donde iríamos el viernes. A lo cual les respondí, a un sitio de re vegetación.

El día viernes estaba sentado en el parque esperando que los chicos llegaran. Llegó Clay, Raisa y Lissete. Clay nos dijo que llevemos galones de agua y así aprovechamos de nuestra visita y regamos las plantas de una vez. Yo le respondí que está bien, lo haríamos. Después llegó Fabiola con sus estudiantes y se unió a nuestro grupo de trabajo. Clay comenzó a hacer llamadas muy rápidamente para conseguir agua. Llamó como dos o tres veces hasta que conseguimos el líquido vital para los árboles. Fuimos a la casa de Planet Drum a recoger los galones. Habían muchos chicos que no querían llevar los galones y les daba un poco de vergüenza, jajaja, principalmente las chicas. Mire hacia atrás y vi como venían atrás los chicos con los galones. Llegamos al astillero y Clay fue por la llave. Uno por uno fue llenando los galones con agua, caminando hacia la colina. Raisa se encargó de ir adelante. Cuando yo subí con el último grupo de Fabiola, el grupo de Raisa ya había terminado de regar una parte de los árboles. Les hablé sobre el lugar y expliqué como la colina había sufrido un deslave durante el fenómeno de el niño. Entendieron mejor lo que hace la fundación de Planet Drum; que como parte de su proyecto había reforestado este lugar para que vuelva a tener árboles endémicos y la colina no siga deslizándose. Así vamos a recuperar la flora y fauna. Al terminar todos regresamos a la fundación. Esta vez lo chicos no quisieron llevar los galones, así que solo me ayudaron Ximena, Luis Arturo, Carlos David y Raisa.

    Ramon

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Paola's Report #2

Bioregionalism Education
Summer Session, 2009

June 11 & 12, 2009 - English*  

This week, instead of 18 kids, I had class with only ten, which felt significantly mellower. Although I knew it was relieving, without the usual boisterous bubble that we interact in, I felt a bit of an emptiness, surprisingly. The kids explained to me that their school had recently given out grades, so if there were kids missing it was because their parents didn’t let them come for one of two reasons: so that they could focus more on their homework, or maybe just out of punishment. Whenever a kid misses class, the message gets passed on to me from another kid; it’s always comforting to know that they go through the trouble to let me know.

So today, we discussed the ocean’s magnitude, both in terms of size and richness of species. The reading stated that the ocean covers 70% of the planet, a fact that I didn’t know but all of the kids did. "That’s why we’ll never run out of water," commented one student. And before I could say anything, the rest of the class was already scolding him about why that was not true, which was a relief.

We talked about some of the species that we can see on the beaches and in the water, like seabirds, crabs and shrimp. I asked if anyone had ever seen dolphins before; almost everyone raised their hands excitedly and told a story about when they had seen them pass in the distance from the shore. Whales, almost nobody had seen before. Whale-watching tours tend to be costly and are more for tourists. "Has anyone seen sharks?" I asked. Bryan, the one kid who seems to know the most about rural living, told us that he sees them all the time when they get caught in fishermen’s nets, explaining that sometimes they get accidentally killed. Fishing regulations were also mentioned in the reading. Bryan was able to tell us about the local regulations and the fact that a lot of fishermen don’t follow them.

We then learned about the Humboldt Current, a topic the kids had never heard mentioned before. We read that in the summer a lot of marine life travels here on this cold current and that it changes its course at the Cabo Pasado beach. And even though this important navigational and geographical landmark is only 30km north of Bahía, no one in the class had ever heard of it before either.

The reading had us look at the relationship between humans and the sea. The kids recognized the sea as a source of food and the reading alerted them to the alarming level of ocean pollution. One of the comprehension questions asked how our trash could affect the animals that live in the ocean. I explained that sometimes animals mistake trash for other fish and eat it or become entangled in it and die. The kids agreed with the reading’s proposal to create local campaigns to protect ocean ecosystems. I encouraged them to think about the process of starting and maintaining such a program. Although the details were a little harder for them to conceptualize, they brainstormed ways of encouraging others to reduce their consumption of a major source of ocean pollution, plastic.

Another interesting question in the reading was how much fish we thought fishermen used to catch 30 years ago compared to now. Again, we concluded that human contamination must be one of the causes of the decline in fish populations. Looking at an example within the bioregion, the local shrimp industry alone destroyed 80% of the mangroves.

The following day, we took a field trip to the beach of San Vicente. We crossed Rio Chone estuary on the small boats that carry passengers all day. Immediately upon arriving we played soccer, volleyball, tag and more, all with the same deflated old ball. The kids complained that the beach was dirty and had too many rocks, but I could tell that some of them were also secretly delighted to find more shells. Some of us sat and contemplated the difference in the content of the sand. We had a nice chat analyzing why we think that sand forms differently in different beaches.

We returned to Bahía in a big ferry that spends all day carrying cars and trucks back and forth from one side of the Chone River to the other. Even though there were trash cans aboard, the floor of the ferry was covered with ice cream wrappers and plastic bottles and bags. For the first time, I noticed how much of the trash the wind was blowing into the water. As I got lost in a sort of trance watching this phenomenon, something even worse happened. As a plastic bottle was rolling from side to side below our seats, suddenly with one swift movement, a hand picked up the bottle and tossed it into the water. Sure enough it was Patricio, a student who had very recently joined our class. The rest of us involuntarily reacted with what came out as a collective sudden yell. And judging by the scared look on his face, I realized that he simply did not understand the significance of what he had just done. I took a deep breath while coming to terms with the fact that I had no one else to blame but myself. I understood then the significance in taking extra time to go over the principles of bioregionalism, including respect for the environment, with the kids who enter the class late or who don’t seem to get it right away.

    Paola

Note: Click on photos for larger images


Andreina, Giovani behind her and Mundi to the right riding in a passenger ferry to San Vicente.

Yerson, Giovani, Selena (students) with Paola, Rosie, and Tanguy (Planet Drum volunteers) on the beach in San Vicente.

Patricio, Karen, Giovani, Paola, Selena (with the bag made out of plastic bottle wrappers!), Rosie, Bryan, Junior and Mundi on the car ferry on the ride home.

Karen, Giovani, Paola, Selena, Rosie and Tanguy

Roberto, class assistant.

Blanking and Andreina.

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Paola-June 11 & 12, 2009 - Spanish/Español

El tema de esta semana se trataba del mar y su grandeza. Los niños ya sabían muy bien que el mar ocupa el 97 % del planeta, "por eso nunca se nos acabara el agua" dijo un niño; antes que yo pudiera decir algo, los otros niños ya le estaban comentando por qué las cosas no son así. Conversamos un poco sobre lo que podemos observar en el mar desde aquí en Bahía, como las aves marinas, los peces, camarones y cangrejos. "Quién ha visto delfines?" les pregunté. Casi todos alzaron la mano y emocionados contaron donde y cuando. "Ballenas?" Solo dos niños habían paseado con sus familias a verlas pasar. "Y tiburones?" "Sí. . .por televisión" bromearon todos. Un niño contó que los ve cuando salen muertos, enredados en las redes de los pescadores; un tema que luego pudimos relacionar a las vedas de la bioregión. La lectura habló sobre la corriente de Humboldt, algo que ninguno de los niños había escuchado hablar. Aprendimos que esta corriente fría trae muchos animales marinos en el verano y se desvía en Cabo Pasado, que a pesar de quedar solo a 30km al norte de Bahía, tampoco nadie conocía.

Continuamos con una conversación sobre la relación que tenemos los humanos con el mar; que nos da comida pero sin embargo nosotros somos los que mas lo contaminan. Los niños preguntaron cómo es que nuestra basura puede afectar a los animales que viven en el mar. Les expliqué que a veces se comen basura pensando que es alimento o se enredan y se mueren. Los niños dijeron que se debe hacer campañas para proteger los ecosistemas marinos; pregunté como se pudiera comenzar una y qué se puede hacer, pero los detalles se nos hicieron un poco difícil de formular.

La lectura nos preguntó qué pensábamos que diría un viejo pescador sobre cuántos peces atrapaba antes, comparado a cuantos atrapa un joven pescador hoy en día. Los niños enseguida contestaron que antes se atrapaban más; racionalizaron que era por que los viejos pescadores tenían más experiencia. Me admiró la respuesta ya que a mi no se me había ocurrido eso; expliqué que también podría ser porque antes había más peces que ahora. Los niños opinaron que podría ser por la contaminación y el descuido, sobre todo de la industria camaronera de la bioregión.

El próximo día cruzamos el estuario en botes pequeños para llegar a la playa de San Vicente. Al llegar los niños comentaron sobre todas las diferencias entre esta playa y las de Bahía; se quejaron que estaba muy sucia y tenía muchas piedras, pero lo que sí tenía de lindo era que se podían encontrar más conchas. Con algunos niños contemplamos un poquito el proceso de la formación de los distintos contenidos de las arenas en playas diferentes. Regresamos a Bahía en una barra gigante, que pasa todo el día moviendo el transporte terrestre de un lado del Río Chone al otro. A pesar de que hay basureros, el piso de la barra está lleno de basura y mientras va navegando, el viento va tirando la basura al agua. Mientras algunos nos quedamos en trance observando el fenómeno, algo aún peor ocurrió. Rodaba una botella plástica de lado a lado debajo de nuestro asiento, cuando de repente un niño que apenas iba una semana en nuestra clase, agarró la botella y con un movimiento muy ligero la soltó por fuera de la barra. Inmediatamente todos los demás pegamos un grito; asustado, el niño se volteó a ver mi reacción y comprendí que simplemente no entendía el significado de lo que había hecho. Me dí cuenta que a pesar de que algunos niños entran cuando ya vamos por mitad del programa o sólo se aparecen para los paseos, es importante darme el tiempo para explicar mejor la base de bioregionalismo y el respeto a la naturaleza.

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Paola's Report #3

Bioregionalism Education
Summer Session, 2009

Week of July 20, 2009 - English*  

It was 3:05 pm as I pedaled my bike hurriedly towards the park. All I need to do to find my class is to look for the big cluster of light blue T-shirts. There is a usual spot we meet at, but the kids seem to have slowly gravitated to different areas around it throughout the course of the summer. Always with high spirits and fully geared in their Planet Drum attire, I’ve gotten into the habit of not questioning their decisions. In fact, I’m realizing that I’ve developed a tendency to let the kids guide our class activities. I am not always sure whether it is always the best plan or not, but it is in response to the trust they’ve earned. Looking back now, my instinct of going with their flow may have empowered them and further encouraged them to be useful participants in our class.

As I turn the corner, John Paul comes running towards me, repeating "I’ll get your bike señorita, let me get your bike." And then Yerson sprints in, also whining to get my bike. The children here have become accustomed to attaining teachers’ attention by yelling the loudest and being the most persistent. I did not understand why until I visited the school during recess one day and was distressed to see the chaos that took place as all the kids pushed and shoved and waved their money around, shouting their orders at the snack bar attendees. The most shocking thing was that the most relentless students were the ones who were served first. Since then, I have made a point to not accidentally allow myself to be trained in that manner.

So as I had now grown accustomed to doing, I put both my hands out in front of me, told John Paul and Yerson to take a deep breath with me and I proceeded to hear myself think. I let one take my bike and the other my extra bags the rest of the 200 feet. Were they trying to be helpful or just trying to get on my bike? Who knows for sure, but they were glad to help. It’s hard not to feel cared for and loved with this kind of attention. I suspect that’s how they win my trust.

We gathered near the street. Nearby, some people were kicking around a soccer ball, so I asked if we could join. One thing that has been consistent through out our program has been constant visits from foreigners in our classes, usually other Planet Drum volunteers. The kids are always excited to meet our guests and I feel like the more exposure they have to different kinds of people, the more they will be open to new ideas. So the kids played soccer while we waited for more of our students to arrive. Usually we wait for half an hour, but the kids were enjoying themselves so 15 more minutes of fun wouldn’t hurt.

As another example of my developing habits, originally class always started with a game, and then we’d discuss matters and conclude with another game. However, somewhere along the way of leaving matters into the hands of the little ones, I had stopped initiating games because they were astoundingly resourceful in entertaining themselves. I still find it intriguing how genuinely thrilled they are to come to class; they feed off each other, stay energized throughout class and are always eager to make it to the beach afterwards.

Today’s class was titled "The Watershed." The reading was short and focused on the natural water cycle and the impact that floods, erosion and contaminated water have on marine habitats. The El Niño phenomenon, a subject covered in every reading, was mentioned once again. The kids can easily recite what happened during the natural disaster but yet they seem far removed from it. I wonder if it is because they don’t learn much about it at school or at home and/or because it happened before they were born. Either way, during our class discussions, it is evident to me that they don’t recognize how much influence it’s had on shaping their environment.

The students answered the comprehension questions effortlessly. One question asked for other ideas to treat sewage water, as opposed to discharging it into the oceans. The kids suggested a composting system, like the volcanic ash based toilet we had seen at the Cerro Seco reserve. I was pleased that they recalled what they had learned on one of our field trips.

The field trip of the week was by far the most extravagant yet. Our mission was to explore "Isla de los Pajaros", which was only the beginning of our adventures. We rented boats, the ones that typically travel to and from San Vicente carrying passengers across the estuary. We filled three boats with all three classes plus an abundant amount of volunteers.

The kids wriggled with excitement as they tried to stand patiently in a single file so that I could count them, which was a way of showing their appreciation that I was paying their fare, something that never goes unacknowledged with them. We loaded into our boat and the kids were everything but serene. They sang, they laughed, they flirted and at five minute intervals would start a sort of collective grunting chant as they rocked the boat leaning from side to side as if to tip it. And this never got old; it went on the whole way there, and the whole way home.

On our way there we were able to see pelicans up close but that didn’t seem to be nearly as exciting as the view of the backside of Leonidas Plaza, where the majority of the kids live. They rushed to jump up and point at their house excitedly, as if they had never looked at their homes from that angle.

Our boat ride took a total of what felt like 35 to 40 minutes. As we approached our destination, the kids asked if we were going to an island of mud. I didn’t believe their rhetorical comment because it was not what I expected, and by the look on everyone’s faces it was not what they had ever even imagined. But there was no time to ponder; as soon as the boat was docked, the kids were jumping off one after the other. Had there been any more time or thinking involved we might have taken off some clothes before lunging into straight mud.

From that point forward all I could hear was the everlasting sound of giggles for the uncomfortable fact that the mud was enveloping us more and more as we struggled through each step. We followed the herd in front of us into a deep river of mud, where suddenly, I found myself lugging eight kids, who were frantically yelling "Ayudeme senorita!" Sure enough they were the smallest of the bunch; they clung on to my arms, my shoulders and neck like parasites. At first, I thought it was cute but as we got deeper and their nervous grip grew tighter, I realized I was sinking fast meanwhile still laughing hysterically, which only made the situation worse. Somehow as I gasped for air, I also managed to yell for help.

Our time at the island was short-lived but unforgettable. Most of us surrendered to the mud and took the time to cover our entire bodies and faces with it. There were some mud fights and the best of ideas was to run full speed and belly flop into to as if it were a slip and slide. We didn’t run into too many birds, but we discovered all sorts of tiny bird footprints and varieties of shells.

I made sure to gather other volunteers as backup for the return walk through the river of mud. And here’s the best part: all the little kids realized that they could reach the bottom and walk across just fine. I guess fear is imperative to having a crazy adventure. The experience was invigorating; the kind that leaves you a good feeling, lingering for days to come.

            - Paola

Note: Click on photos for larger images


From left to right: Yerson, Selena, Manuel, Juan Diego, Andreina, Rody, Diego.

Students playing a game during class.

Paola’s class at work in the city park.

The class getting excited on the ride over to Bird Island.

Students and volunteers alike swim and crawl through the mud to get to the island.

Everyone gets covered with mud.

A Mangrove tree growing on the edge of the island.

A view on the island from the boats as we prepare to leave.

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Paola's Report #4

Bioregionalism Education
Summer Session, 2009

Week of Aug. 3, 2009 - English*  

I had no idea what it meant to have an "Open House", which is what all three Bioregionalism classes were scheduled to have this week. At our Monday meeting, I was told that it meant that each class would display a poster board at their school and explain a little about it; any other details were open for our own interpretation. Clay gave each of us ten dollars to buy supplies for the poster project. I bought glue, but still had no idea what we would make. This was an opportunity for the kids to show their schoolmates what they had learned in my class; it didn’t make sense to buy new supplies after three months spent emphasizing the importance of reusing and consuming less. I was feeling nervous about the whole thing, so I visited both the other classes that week. Somehow patience is what helped me envision something more suitable to the needs of my conscience.

I met the kids at the park as usual; they were excited to hear that we were going to my house. They had come over on several occasions, typically to drop off the trash we’d pick up on our field trips, but also because during the second month we had wallet-making sessions there. It all started because they were enthralled by my duct tape wallet and wanted me to show them how it was made. Unfortunately, there is no duct tape in this city and if there were it’d be costly, so trash was the next best option. We attempted to make wallets out of interweaved labels that come off of the plastic soda bottles. The consistency was much bulgier than duct tape so I strongly suggested that we make coin purses instead, especially considering we live in a world where one hardly carries bills. But they insisted on wallets. Wallets are classier, I was told. Some made intricate bulgy wallets, some made coin purses with ID slots, and Selena even made a purse. It was by far the most gratifying activity I’ve ever done with kids.

The three blocks that we walked to get to my house were filled with questions about what it was we were going to do. I think the thought of having to make a poster board worried them that they would be bored. I explained to them three options to establish who preferred to work in which section. I had Meret and Aaron, other Planet Drum volunteers, as back up, waiting for us inside.

Aaron supervised the kids as they worked on making a sort of title board. They broke down a big old cardboard box to make a flat surface. Then they spelled out the title with glued aluminum bottle caps; the ones we had collected when we made tambourine-like instruments a few months back. Around the edges they glued the pictures we had taken during classes and field trips. Every other blank space was filled in with trash, cut into a sun, a bird and other random shapes. The board was colorful and pleasing to the eyes.

Meret’s station was set up to make a collage using another old box, newspaper and old tourism posters that had pictures of local animals and scenery. They formed a flat board and cut out all the images. When I vaguely explained that they could make a background with the newspaper and then glue anything anywhere, I got blank stares. Andreina, rearranged the newspaper and the pictures every which way. With a puzzled look on her face, she remarked "this needs to look nice señorita, if we’re going to be presenting it", as if she didn’t think it could. I explained that that’s all we had because it didn’t feel appropriate to buy anything. "Oh, were trying to make this out of trash!" was her immediate response. Suddenly it all made sense to her and everyone else, so they proceeded to paste things arbitrarily. The extent of their imagination did not reach as far as I had hoped; aware of my judgmental presumption, I attribute it to the conventionality of their education system. Fortunately, Meret’s agility and creativity flavored the project and made the mission a success.

The last group of kids formulated the written material. It was challenging for them to determine which subjects to focus on. They started by adding labels on the collage to identify the five characteristics of a Bioregion. I had brought some pictures that I thought were relevant and could guide us. We used a picture of plantains and a picture of fishermen on the beach to explain the importance of buying local food. We demonstrated cleaner means of transportation with a picture of a tricycle taxi. With a picture of a local hillside covered in trash, we stressed the importance of not contaminating our environment. And finally, we included a picture of a volunteer cutting plastic liter bottles and a picture of baby trees inside those cut bottles as an example of how we can reuse products along with how planting native trees can replenish the soil.

Although a bit chaotic with frequent whiny remarks of "are we done yet," the project making session turned out to be a success. Now came the hardest part; figuring out how we were going to present it to the school. Exciting images of them, illuminating their school about environmental issues through a comedy skit, danced through my mind; but the idea had come too late.

I spoke with the school director to schedule a presentation for the next week. He gave me permission to meet with the kids at their break time to display our posters; also for them to wear their blue Planet Drum T-shirts, something the kids had insisted upon. The thought of having our featured appearance be during recess time muddled inside me. I told the kids that we would display our boards and be available to explain its content.

Our presentation went smoothly; it was a modest way of proposing the idea of "bioregional" awareness. My assistant, Carlitos, and I posted up along the common hang out spot while different classes came out for break time at every hour. Our title and picture board was the one to draw the most attention; people often would rather look at pictures than read. They were engaged by our examples of recycled trash, like the bag and the tambourine. The general question of the day was "what is this all about?" I quickly learned to steer away from using the word "ecology" because I noticed the kids would lose interest, disregarding it, as if it were a foreign insignificant concept. It was a lazy explanation anyway, something I had casually picked up from hearing others describe our class. A few students showed genuine interest in the matter; the majority at least appreciated it as a distraction from their daily routine.

After two long hours, my students finally came out the last hour. They were excited. A few teachers came around and I was enthused that the kids could have the opportunity to tell their teachers about it if they asked. Instead one teacher gave an unnecessarily drawn out comment about how it was hard to read "BiorEgioNaLisMo" because some of the letters were capitalized and other weren’t; it was disappointing bothersome to me to say the least. Promoting children to expand their minds to new horizons is an easy task; it’s the adults who resist opening their minds and hearts.

Through out the course of the class I asked myself if Bioregionalism is entirely pertinent to the lives of the kids I’ve met. Because they will continue to buy unhealthy prepackaged snacks, they are by nature highlyconscious of other matters. They seem to come from upbringings where food, water, fuel and energy are conserved out of necessity. A major problem is how much trash gets thrown out on the hillsides, streets and beaches; a dilemma that’s been deep-rooted as a cultural norm.

If anything, I hope that from our time together they attained more of an instinctual concern for their natural surroundings.

            - Paola

Note: Click on photos for larger images


Paola’s class shows off their posters made of recycled materials.

Karen and Andreina with a poster.

A collage.

Bioregionalismo’poster.

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(Click here for next Set of Reports, 2010)