The education project is coming along with quite a bit of enthusiasm, perhaps too much. We still have fifty participants in the project, most of them from a tourism class at the local high school Fanny de Baird. It seems that their teacher has highly recommended, if not put quite a bit of pressure on them to take this course. This is both good and bad. It is good to have young interest and participation in the course, but it is bad in that the participants feel more obligated to be there rather than out of their own voluntary participation and so they are not as apt to pay attention and participate. And then of course there is the problem that it is way too big a class! So I am trying to figure out what to do about this. I am thinking about talking to the teacher and explaining that the class needs to be on a voluntary basis, so please take off the pressure for them to take the course. I am also thinking of laying down some rules and trying to figure out a way to root out who is really interested in the course, such as a limit on how many classes can be missed, assigning homework, emphasizing participation etc. Maybe having them write an essay about why they want to take the class… but it is hard for me to tell them that they can’t take the course on an exclusionary basis.
This week was an introduction to the course and the focus was on our direct relationship with nature. This was highlighted by the El Niño phenomenon. On Tuesday we had several guest speakers, Friends of the Eco-city and those participating in teaching the course. Nicola Mears from Guacamayo Tours spoke about what it means to be a citizen of the eco-city, Galileo spoke about our placement in time and being aware of the historical and cultural elements that affect our environment. Vladir of Genesis School spoke about what it means to be an Ecuadorian ecologist and the significance of bioregional education. Marcelo Luque spoke about the El Niño phenomenon, its causes and effects and the human involvement in it. The we broke into groups of five and discussed personal experiences with the El Niño phenomenon. We got back together in a large group after this and had Jose Paraga from Civil Defense told us about his experiences rescuing people and the sixteen deaths in Maria Auxiliadora. We then watched video footage of the disaster which really brought the message home.
On Thursday we put the theory into practice with an excursion to the different areas affected by El Niño. We started off in Jorge Lomas, discussed the presence of the new water diversion canal, walked to the Planet Drum site, and then continued along the ridge until we reached Maria Auxiliadora and walked through El Bosque en Medio de las Ruinas where they could see first-hand the effects of the disaster and the ruins left behind. This was the introduction to the course so that they would take a personal interest in the subject and start thinking about their own relationship with nature, that of the society, problems and solutions.
Next week we will start the course material. We will take the first several weeks to learn about the four different zones of life: Dry Tropical Forest, Very Dry Tropical Forest, Humid Tropical Forest and Mangroves. We will have different guest speakers to talk about the different zones and take excursions to see native plants and animals in the zones. We will start off with Marcelo Luque and Cerro Seco. We will also gather seeds and plant in the greenhouse to start the reforestation aspect of the project and introduce the participants to what Planet Drum is doing.
So things are moving along very smoothly and again, it is exciting to see the enthusiasm over the project. The main concern I have now is limiting participants, but I guess it is better to be in that situation, rather than searching for more. Let me know if you have any suggestions or ideas.