Lessons on Climate and Conservation

Published: January 2011
Howler monkeys, toucans, jaguars -- the forests of Guatemala's Petén region support a rich diversity of wildlife, provide a home for hundreds of forest communities and sequester carbon that leads to global climate change. For the Rainforest Alliance's education team, the Petén also serves as a classroom where teachers from the US and Guatemala learn lessons in environmental education that they can bring back to their own communities.
Together with Project Learning Tree, the Rainforest Alliance offers workshops on forest conservation to teachers who live and work in Guatemala's Petén, where deforestation is rampant and the need to teach young people the importance of resource protection is paramount.
Most recently, workshop lessons focused on climate change, the carbon cycle and the pivotal role that forests play in regulating the Earth's climate.
Through group exercises and presentations, teachers learned creative ways of incorporating environmental education into their lesson plans.
Workshop participants visited Yaxha National Park, a protected area in the Petén that provides habitat for jaguars, toucans and howler monkeys.
The teachers also learned about Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) , an emerging international system designed to conserve forests, reduce climate change and benefit communities that choose to protect their forest resources.
Rainforest Alliance staff introduced teachers to our climate work in the region, specifically a pioneer project called 'GuateCarbon,' which is designed to help communities in the Maya Biosphere Reserve benefit from forest conservation and carbon sequestration efforts. Key to the project is involving community members in the decision-making processes.
Teachers also learned to estimate the amount of carbon stored in trees by measuring the trees' circumference and height.
'I now have a clearer understanding of the importance of carbon and how it impacts climate change. My students are responding very well to the new materials and content regarding the environment and conservation.' -- Osmar Monzon, Teacher, Escuela Oficial Rural Mixta Islu, Petén.
At the close of the workshop, each teacher planted a cedar or mahogany tree -- a personal contribution to the region's carbon sequestration efforts.
'By working closely with the teachers in Guatemala's Maya Biosphere Reserve we hope to instill in the children of the Petén an awareness of the environmental issues impacting their forests. Through these workshops and new educational tools, we hope these students and future community leaders come to understand the impact their forest has on the world's climate.' -- Maria Ghiso, Education Outreach Coordinator, Rainforest Alliance.

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