National parks workshop focuses on best practicesPOSTED: 08/8/12 11:54 AM
KRALENDIJK, Bonaire — Education officers from national parks and organizations across the Dutch Caribbean and the Netherlands and youth who have become park Junior Rangers shared ideas last week in a three-day workshop to cooperatively plan future education efforts. The workshop took place July 29-30 on Bonaire at the headquarters of the Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance (DCNA).
The group came together to find shared ways to give children a better knowledge and understanding of nature, and the passion and skills to actively participate in conservation.
The Nature Foundation, which is the Park Management organization for St. Maarten, stated that one of our biggest challenges has been the lack of education in the past. “Although children live on the island, there is no real idea of how unique their environment really is. Children need to realize that St. Maarten is part of a bigger whole and that we don’t protect nature only for itself, but for future generations.”
Information, experiences and ideas flowed as the group reviewed materials and best practices, as well as their progress on their education goals since 2010, when the first workshop of this kind took place.
The group is collaborating to produce teaching materials that can be used in after-school programming as well as in classrooms, and is working to create a uniform education program spanning ages 8 to 18 called Wild4Life.
As part of that program, five Junior Rangers, including one from Nationaal Park Weerribben-Wieden in the Netherlands, presented their culminating projects and demonstrated to the workshop participants how to geo-tag trees—mapping their location using smart phones.
The workshop participants will continue to develop a common vision of nature education and further cooperation among the islands and the Netherlands about ways to build understanding and support for nature conservation efforts. In future, national parks may share a Junior Ranger program that culminates in older teens earning the Junior Ranger designation. Younger children might receive “passports” to be stamped as they participate in various parks’ activities, both terrestrial and marine.
The planning, participants agreed, also pointed out the islands’ common need for full-time education officers to work in the parks to develop youth programming.
“It’s very good for the islands to work together,” said Desiree Croes, education coordinator for STINAPA Bonaire. “All the islands are a little bit different, and every meeting is a way to communicate and learn from each other.
“It makes us stronger.”