Community Links’ after-school program in Tecuanípan is taking off! With the help of three volunteers under the direction of Ina Vanooteghem, we are introducing new material to the curriculum: environmental education. The children who visit our program every Tuesday and Thursday are not strangers to nature; they’ve grown up in the campo their whole lives and often work alongside their parents in the fields at an early age. In addition, they know firsthand how big a problem like water scarcity can be. Our program seeks to expound upon the lived knowledge these kids already possess—to answer questions like ‘How do the plastic bottles in the river affect the ecosystem?’ and ‘How does burning waste affect air quality?’ Many of the kids already know that pollution is ‘bad’, but our goal is to teach the why and how. We hope that after learning how the environment functions they will be able to tell their friends the reason they shouldn’t dump trash near the spring where the community gets its drinking water.
After an introduction early this week to concepts like ‘environment’, ‘natural resources’, and ‘contamination,’ and a brief overview of how people historically have affected the Earth, we asked the kids to go home and interview their grandparents in order to get an idea of how fast things change. What did convenience stores look like when they were young? Did plastic bottles even exist?
Yesterday we went on a field trip to the river nearby to collect plastic bottles. ‘How much time does it take to decide to find a trash can or recycle?’ I wondered aloud to the kids. We’d spent a good hour down by the water. Next week we’ll be cleaning the bottles and turning them into colorful hummingbird feeders…stay tuned!