The ACEER Conservation Learning Web in the Peruvian Amazon
With $150,000 from the National Geographic Society and an additional $100,000 from private donations, ACEER, in 2018, is implementing a bold, new educational initiative: the ACEER Conservation Learning Web.
What is it?
The ACEER Conservation Learning Web builds upon the 25+ years of experience and success of our organization in Peru. It integrates experiential school-based environmental education programs and field-based teacher training with out-of-school programs, higher education, sustainable businesses, families, and local and global conservation NGOs. The unique contributions of these diverse settings, working in symbiosis, will effectively deliver transformative learning experiences and tangible outcomes in the service of conservation, restoration, and sustainable economic development. Over time, the Learning Web will enable young people in the region to become engaged, knowledgeable, and skilled as they progress through childhood into adolescence and early adulthood.
Why do we need it?
The Amazon Basin in southeastern Peru, an epicenter of biodiversity, is threatened by illegal logging and other extractive practices that harm ecological and human health. The region has experienced loss of habitat due to conversion of forest to agriculture and livestock grazing lands. The local population is hampered in its ability to respond to these challenges due to generally poor formal education opportunities, little to no informal education, lack of local environmental literacy, and few opportunities to participate in sustainable economic development. There is a clear need for an educated and engaged local population, a need for local environmental leaders, and a need for awareness of and access to opportunities for sustainable economic development.
How are we doing it?
Our approach is to develop a learning ecosystem with the Conservation Learning Web, animated by environmental education and grounded in a collective impact framework. The collective impact framework argues that when addressing a complex issue, no single initiative, no matter how excellent, has the ability to make a significant impact on its own. ACEER’s primray strategy is to maintain the established partnerships and to grow and cultivate these into the Learning Web. The Web will connect all conservation-related learning environments in diverse settings and equip educators to lead active, experiential learning in diverse settings. The Web will support youth by allowing them access to new pathways and exploration for further learning and jobs. Pathways and opportunities for exploration enable young people to become engaged, knowledgeable, and skilled in environmental disciplines as they progress through childhood into adolescence and early adulthood.
Overall, we seek to both build and deepen student and teacher understanding of conservation and restoration in intentionally connected ways over time and across multiple settings. Through this collective impact framework, we will build scientific skills and knowledge through multiple exposures and experiences. We also seek to spark and nurture young people’s interest in and enthusiasm for their local environment, while exposing young people to environmental professionals and sustainability-related education and career options. We support those under-represented in formal education (girls; linguistic, racial, and ethnic minorities; indigenous peoples) in order to promote diverse and inter-related learning experiences.
What impact are we having?
Capacity building is a central component of the Conservation Learning Web project. To create a new generation of environmentally literate citizens, conservation leaders, and sustainable communities will require an investment in students currently in the educational pipeline. Concurrently, though, we will need to develop the capacity of the stakeholders in the educational community of Madre de Dios, so they may better serve the children in their care. Our ecosystem approach to education will require the establishment and management of a web of strategic partners, in addition to the schools, universities, and communities that will be served by our Conservation Learning Web. We already benefit from an existing network of partners. This project will expand upon these collaborations, with a goal of 6 new partners in Year 1 growing to 10 by Year 3. Our capacity development activities, through the Web, will annually reach 2,100 individuals, including students, teachers, university undergraduates, and families. At the end of the three-year project, at current funding levels, 2,700 elementary students, 2,800 high school students, 510 K-12 teachers, 126 university students, and 120 family members will be the direct beneficiaries of this project. ACEER will actively act as a “prism” by being the central force aligning all the components of the Web. While the prism effect works both ways. We expect that as we work though a collective direction towards Peru’s rainforest conservation with all our partners, later on, the students and everyone that went through the ACEER Web and prism, would define their path towards a sustainable choice in their everyday lives.
How can you help?
Our goal is to reach every teacher and every student in the Madre de Dios region of the Peruvian Amazon. It is an ambitious goal, but necessary and doable. Our funds from National Geographic and private donors will get our Web up an running, but we need much more support to keep it going and to adapt it to changing needs within the region. That’s where you come in.
Support the Conservation Learning Web directly by making a charitable donation to the ACEER today through our secure website. Have an idea or suggestion to grow the Web either programmatically or financially? Contact us! firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Leaf Pack” Stream Ecology
This project is designed for training and working with teachers and high school and college students about the importance of the conservation of water quality, and creating a consciousness about the necessity to preserve the tropical rain forest. It consists of practical hands-on learning and primarily investigational field work with the development of complex and detailed scientific experiments.
“Leaf Pack” starts with going to a local stream and filling a mesh bag with leaves. The bag is then tied, weighted, and placed on the bottom of a stream for up to one month. During that time bottom dwelling organisms colonize the bag. The bag is then collected and all of the organisms are identified and counted. If a stream has a high prevalence of mayflies, stoneflies and caddisflies, we know that the stream has high water quality, as these organisms are very sensitive to low oxygen levels, high sediment levels and other pollutants. If these organisms are rare or absent, it is an indicator that the stream is suffering from pollution. Through an index, “leaf pack” allows streams to be rated for their water quality and gives valuable information on how land use practices are impacting local water quality.
Teachers and students learn about the water cycle, organisms living in streams, with emphasis on the fauna of micro-invertebrates and their use as quality biomarkers. They also learn a practical way to develop the scientific method, data collection, identifying organisms, and index application, as well as performing physiochemical tests to evaluate health and quality of the water.
The ACEER-Fairchild Tropical Botanical Garden Art Challenge
In collaboration with the Fairchild Tropical Botanical Garden in Miami, FL, ACEER is working with our Peruvian teachers and students to investigate the biodiversity of their environment and learn to value it through art. At the same time, they help the wider community learn about the importance of knowing and preserving biodiversity and the resources of the tropical rain forest that surrounds them. They strengthen their abilities of artistic expression with drawing and painting. The participants, advised by their teachers, investigate the proposed theme for the year, and participate in a global art contest conducted by Fairchild. The themes go from Flowers and Plants from my Region, Fruits from my Region, to Butterflies from my Region, and others.
Development of Original Educational Materials
ACEER, through our AMIGOS: An Alliance for Education, produces a series of original educational materials, created and designed specifically for local schools in each of the regions where we work. There are story books to color, field guides, and other learning materials. These educational materials are culturally sensitive, address local environmental problems, and offer alternatives and solutions. The objective is to compliment the training and education of teachers and students who participate in our programs. These high-quality content learning materials are consistent with our conservation mission by being produced with the highest environmental standards such as FSC certified paper, or with paper made of recycled fibers, as well as environmentally responsible inks and printing supplies. You can download, read, and print these materials from our Spanish language website: www.aceeramigos.com. Your use of the text will be with the authorization and knowledge of ACEER and we respectfully request appropriate acknowledgement.
Playing and Learning at the Puppet House
This original program by ACEER promotes learning for teachers and elementary school children through the use of playful techniques such as puppets, music and songs, artistic creativity, and outdoor (field) activities. This strengthens their abilities and attitude about the knowledge and care of the environment.
Stories such as “Yoqui, the Brave Parrot”, “My Small Paradise”, and “Fish in Flight”, among others, describe the problems of the local environment, and offer participants a chance to exercise their critical thinking skills in order to generate viable solutions and attitude changes to promote conservation in the Peruvian Amazon. These stories reflect the biodiversity of the Peruvian Amazon and narrate the story of animals and plants that inhabit it, and the delicate interaction between its organisms.
The activities take place in three stages – the first being a motivational session in the classroom, during which time the purpose and methods are explained to the teacher and students. The second session is a field trip that culminates in the puppet presentation. The final session is back in the classroom to gather feedback about what was learned on the field trip and at the Puppet House.
Getting to Know our Birds in the Southern Amazon of Peru
This ACEER program provides education about the importance of becoming familiar with and preserving the diversity of birds in the southern Amazon of Peru. The project, inspired by the work of the Museum of Natural History in San Marcos, consists of ACEER staff and collaborators bringing a series of interactive teaching and learning modules to local educational institutions. These modules cover specific topics related to birds such as their natural history, anatomic characteristics, diversity and behavior, reproduction, as well as the economic importance birds offer by stimulating associated sustainable economic activities such as ecotourism. The different modules are led by specialists in their field, such as scientists, professional bird and ecotourism guides, professors of ornithology and art, and others.
This educational project is in collaboration with the Museum of Natural History of the National Mayor University of San Marcos, Lima, Peru.